SLO STC banner

Home | Overview of the Profession | Usability Overview | Oct. 28th Program Summary | Definitions | Resources | Articles

October 28, 2002 Program Summary
by Adele Sommers

Falling leaves

"Giving Customers What They Want -- Self-Service Via the Web" was the first event in a three-part Fall professional development series entitled, "Solving Information Challenges in the Workplace."

Summary: The presentation by software developer, educator, and best practices expert Chet Leighton was, by all accounts, a smash hit! A warm and enthusiastic crowd of 30 people attended the combination of an informal dinner and presentation (or presentation only) at Margie's private banquet room.

The event afforded a terrific opportunity for attendees with diverse backgrounds to exchange perspectives during an exploration of self-service Web portals. Because Chet's talk covered general principles rather than architecture or programming techniques, the material was equally appealing to the technical communicators, managers, Web developers, database designers, educators, trainers, human performance specialists, and other professionals in the audience.

Chet led us through an in-depth exploration of a real-life self-service problem at SFSU: How to help students plan a degree program. As a former SFSU graduate student and now an instructor at the college, he is quite familiar with SFSU's "information-only" Web site. We in the audience, however, experienced the opportunity to decide for ourselves, via small-group discussions, what we liked or disliked about the current system. Our flip chart pages quickly filled with the shortcomings we spotted as potential users.

Chet next invited us to share our small-group observations (which included a litany of complaints!) with the larger gathering. Following a break and our door prize drawing, he then unveiled his best practices solution -- a dynamic and highly assistive replacement for the old system. Lo and behold, it addressed nearly everything we had observed in the way of shortcomings, and left us feeling inspired, satisfied, and on several levels, supremely vindicated! Fortunately, this new system has now replaced the old one, much to SFSU's delight.

For more information:

Photography by Mary Meyer.


Introducing our speaker
Introducing our speaker


Questions and answers
Questions and answers


Small token of our appreciation
A small token of our appreciation

Topic 1:
"Giving Customers What They Want -- Self-Service Via the Web"
Integrating Software Tools with Information Portals to Create Performance-Based Portals
Date: Monday evening, October 28, 2002
Speaker: Chet Leighton, instructor at San Francisco State University, software developer, and national expert on knowledge management and best practices in information and workplace performance.

"Giving Customers What They Want -- Self-Service via the Web" dealt with the familiar problem of designing a Web site (a portal) in which visitors need to perform a variety of tasks in a self-service mode. For example, the portal may help students access campus services, employees perform human resource transactions, or customers submit service requests. In each case, however, merely presenting visitors with information does not necessarily mean they can effectively help themselves!

To address this problem, performance-based portals focus on the tasks visitors need to perform. Such portals provide software tools, as well as information, to help people make decisions as they complete their tasks. The result is a much more efficient, successful, and enjoyable experience. Come and learn more about identifying the issues involved -- and the best-practice solutions -- at this highly interactive and information-packed event!

Door Prize: "User and Task Analysis for Interface Design" by JoAnn Hackos.

Part 1: Exploring the issues through real self-service examples
How do you devise a business strategy that allows customers to help themselves through your web site? Two real self-service examples and related demonstrations will explore the key issues involved.

Case #1: Northern California Credit customer service application answers these questions:
• How can you reduce costs by having customers enter their own orders and service requests?
• How can you increase revenue, and loyalty, by having customers submit and review requests in real time?

Case #2: SFSU student advising (planning a degree program) answers these questions:
• What's the problem with merely providing information to people and asking them to help themselves?
• What are the benefits of a performance-based portal that helps people with actual decision-making?

Part 2: Exploring best-practice solutions for the self-service example
This segment will answer these important questions:

• How do you turn an information-based portal into a performance-based portal?
• How do you determine what the customers need and want?
• How do you design tools to help people use the information to perform tasks on the Web?
• What are the difficulties of implementing this type of application?
• What best practices are involved?
Informal Q&A


For a white paper on a closely related topic written by Chet Leighton and Cindy McCabe, please download the following PDF file (310K):

Disclaimer & credits