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Why We Didn't Convert Week3.org to SharePoint 2010

Written By: Virgil Carroll
Posted: 7/26/2010

I thought I would add a quick post about an interesting situation we had recently in regards to Week3.org, an online collaboration user group, HMC helps run. With the release of the new SharePoint 2010, we were excited to move Week3.org – which is currently based on SharePoint 2007, to 2010. We wanted to take advantage of some of the new 2010 features, such as having a more inline user experience (using pop-ups and such), better control over the session sign-up process workflows (plus fixing some of the 2007 shortcomings) and incorporating the new 2010 media hosting components. Unfortunately as we started discussing this move, we realized it could have some unintended consequences for the 10,000+ people we invite each month to attend the sessions. So we set out to do some research to make sure that a move to SharePoint 2010 was in our group's best interests.

Our main concern was the IE6 compatibility issues with SharePoint 2010. As many of you already know, 2010 introduced the world of SharePoint to browser standardization, which did not include support for Internet Explorer 6.0 and below. Since I know many of our enterprise customers still have Windows XP desktops and actively run IE6, I decided a browse through the web (you know…the location of all truths J) During my research I found my concern about IE6 and the Week3 user population could have some legs. One great example I found is a study by NetMarketShare, published this past June, which showed over 17% of the general public still uses IE6. It went on to further to estimate businesses are even further behind this curve with as many as 27% still using IE6! (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/052510-ie6-businesses.html) Uggh! That's almost 30% of all business users. Which could mean 30% of the Week3.org population would not be able to sign-up for our sessions any longer. This was a very frustrating revelation.

Well, once I calmed down (really just ate a candy bar and I was fine J), I decided since I preach 'not making assumptions about users' to all my clients, how could I assume I knew the answer of whether this was an issue for Week3 users or not? So I took some extra time and set the team off to do something that we in technology really don't like to do….ask our users!!!

So we set-up a quick survey with Survey Monkey and sent it to all our users and let the dice roll. The first question we asked was if they currently used IE6? For those who answered no, the survey thanked them for their time and ended. For those who answered yes, we followed up with another question to see if the user had access to upgrade their existing browser to IE7 or IE8 or use another browser, such as Firefox or Safari? We decided to ask this to see if people had just chosen no to upgrade their browser, or there was an internal business reason. Ultimately, the goal of our survey was to find out if an upgrade to 2010 would be a deal breaker. In the end we found that about a third of Week3's audience is still using IE6, and for most of these users it would in fact be a deal breaker! It's amazing how much information a simple survey can gleam, helping us avoid making what could've been a big mistake. So while a move to 2010 would have its benefits, we are not ready now, or ever, to alienate thousands of our users in order to reap these benefits.

So what is the lesson you can take away from this story? Well if you think it's that upgrading to SharePoint 2010 is a bad idea, then I think you might have missed my point. In this particular instance we have a large user base that spans the globe. Week3.org is not an internal organization and has no power to determine what browser its user's use. Therefore in this particular instance, upgrading to 2010 was not the right fit. On the other hand if you want to take away a lesson, its how important it is for those of us implementing these systems to understand our user base. In better understanding important information such as where users come from, how they interact with our systems and what technology they use, we can better determine the effects of our technology initiatives. I walk into more client's doors on a regular basis whose technology projects have failed miserably because they didn't take the time to make sure this was something their users wanted and could use. Taking the time to get to know our users, instead of assuming we understand them, can increase the probability of new project success exponentially.

As for the IE6 issue, If you are using 2010 for internal resources only, most likely you will already have a good understanding of what the browser standard is in your organization. On the other hand, if you are targeting an audience that is globally dispersed, highly fragmented or is basically 'everyone', then you probably have little understanding of what their using and little control to make them change. It seems more and more people and businesses are slowly upgrading to XHTML compliant browsers. According to Zscaler, a "State of the Web" report for Q1 2010, 33% of businesses were using IE6 in January, and by March this number dropped to 27%. Since about a third of Week3's audience told us in June/July that they were still using IE6, we might be a little behind this curve. However, our sample population might be slightly smaller than Zscaler's, thus our margin of error should put us in the same general realm as their findings. Assuming this to be true, and that the progress continues at a somewhat constant rate, we might be able to make this move sometime in 2011, without facing such drastic ramifications. Only time will tell, and until we have strong numbers showing the vast majority of our users will be able to access our site with their current browser, we plan to sit on our hands.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 7/26/2010 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments