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I have just returned from the SAPPHIRENOW and ASUG Annual Conference in Orlando where I was fortunate to be part of the Media & Analyst Program for the event.

Many others have written about their overall impressions of the conference so I won't go over old ground other than to say it was huge!

Whilst there I had several formal and informal chats with sam.yen - SAP’s Chief Design Officer. Sam is always generous with his time and willing to share his thoughts. He is responsible for SAP’s renewed focus on the user experience that we see delivered through products like Fiori and Personas.

If you are interested here are some of my previous blogs that cover - to varying degrees - other conversations with Sam.

Changing perception of usability at SAP

Fiori arrives - first impressions and thoughts

What is SAP Fiori? Maybe it's more than you think

Coincidentally whilst travelling home I came across a post from Ivana McConnell titled Designers And Developers: No Longer A House Divided. In it McConnell talks about how the roles of Designers and Developers are blurring together and the challenges this presents. She sees this change manifest itself with designers becoming pressured to stay on top of development technologies, and vice versa, and points out that really this is just a symptom of a communication problem between the two groups. Her suggestions include...

“...rather than focusing on understanding the mechanics of each other’s work ...,
we should focus on softer skills,…"  - emphasis is Ivana's

"We can only become better designers and developers by learning to communicate better with one another."

No argument from me. A designer and a developer working well together will produce better results that a designer who also codes or a developer who does the design. We have all seen those wonderful screens produced by developers who think a palette of 256K colours means you should use as many of those colours as possible. :smile:

Sam Yen pointed out another challenge - that of how to scale the design piece of work when there are so few designers working with developers? What is the ratio of designers to developers in your organisation? A quick Google search and I found responses that suggested optimum ratios from 1:2 up to about 1:10.

SAP have been focusing on design for a while now and their ratio is at least an order of magnitude higher. I asked a few people from some of the larger system integrators on the SAPPHIRENOW show floor and there was no one claiming better than 1:1000. Most of their standard “development” teams contained no designers at all. We seem to have a problem scaling-up the design piece.

In some respect the SAPUI5/OpenUI5 SDK attempts to address this issue by providing "pre-designed" pieces of the puzzle to help keep developers on the straight and narrow. The SDK contains documentation on a large suite of controls that follow consistent design patterns. It also includes samples that don't just show developers how to code individual controls but also how to use them to build a complete application.

And there is also the Fiori Design Guidelines to help. This includes design stencils that can be used in the Axure tool for creating wireframes and mockups. Well worth a look.

But the problem of scaling the design piece still needs to be better addressed. SAP have some ideas on this. We can expect to hear more later in the year - perhaps at SAP TechEd.