SAP AG has had an online voice in the world of graphic and user interface design for over four years. This voice is the website SAP Design Guild. It provides background information on the user-oriented design of SAP, training opportunities, and current information about events and new books, for instance. This specialist site has been well received by users. More than 700 subscribers from 40 countries have signed up to the monthly “SAP Design Guild” newsletter. Most of the site’s users are from the US and Germany, followed by India, Canada, the UK, and France. Different industries are represented, in particular IT consultancy, electronics, software, energy, higher education, and (web) design.
The SAP Design Guild was originally the brainchild of SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner. He wanted to provide customers with online information on SAP’s design resources. This idea was a result of the “EnjoySAP” initiative of the late 1990s, which, under the slogan of “SAP software works the way I do”, improved the ergonomics of corporate solutions and introduced a new aesthetic into software design. The idea of the SAP Design Guild was to provide a pool of ideas for designers. In October 1999, members of the Usability Engineering Center and the Product Design Center traveled to their design partner, frog design, in Austin, Texas, to devise a concept for the website. The experts collaborated in developing a prototype and devised the first content. Six months later, in April 2000, the SAP Design Guild went online.
Supported by three pillars
The basic concept from the initial phase, with the “Resources”, “Philosophy”, and “Strategy” sections, is still evident today, but the website has been continuously developed over time, and the SAP Design Guild is now based on the pillars of “Resources”, “Editions”, and “Community”.
The “Resources” make up the “stable” area. This section provides a permanent collection of publicly accessible SAP information resources on the topic of design. New versions of the “Editions”, on the other hand, are published twice a year. Each edition contains a number of articles that concentrate on a particular topic. The most up-to-date section is the “Community”, which is updated weekly. This provides an events calendar and book reviews, plus reports on conferences, projects, or design issues.
There are two versions of the SAP Design Guild: external and internal. In contrast to the external edition, the internal version contains additional information and style guides that are intended for internal use only and have not yet been approved for general circulation. “User Productivity Online”, which was set up recently, is another, purely internal website on the SAP intranet that supplements the information provided by the SAP Design Guild.
The “Resources” form the core of the SAP Design Guild, and are also the most popular section. This section contains guidelines and style guides that SAP has drawn up for topics such as visual and user interface design.
This section is subdivided into eight categories:
- “Visual Design & Icons” provides “cookbooks” for visual design and style guides for icons and toolbars.
- “Portal & Web” contains style guides for web and portal applications.
- “Mobile & More” is dedicated to design guidelines for mobile applications.
- “R/3” provides guidelines and information on ERP applications.
- “General” provides information on accessibility and terminology issues.
- “Design Process” contains publications on the user-centric design process of SAP.
- “Outdated” is an archive of older design guidelines and publications.
- “Goodies” is a lucky bag of useful and interesting things, such as glossaries, wallpaper designs, or optical illusions – the latter being particularly popular. Users who want to wander down memory lane and see how SAP’s user interfaces have developed over the years can find screen grabs of older SAP-R/3 and web applications here.
Special editions on specific topics
Around twice a year, an “SAP Design Guild” edition appears on a specific topic to do with visual and user interface design. Each edition contains between ten and twenty articles by internal and external authors, including prominent personalities from the design scene, such as Karen Holtzblatt, Steve Calde − a colleague of Alan Cooper − John Seely Brown, Dan Woods, and Abraham Bernstein.
The editorial team is currently working on the eighth edition of the SAP Design Guild, which is devoted to “User Productivity”. This edition will deal with topics including the “User Productivity” department at SAP, which is in charge of ensuring that users can work with the software as productively as possible.
The earlier editions are collated in an easily navigable archive, enabling them to be accessed at any time. They deal with the following topics:
- Composite Applications (10/2003); Edition 7
- Branding (02/2003); Edition 6
- Collaboration (09/2002); Edition 5
- Accessibility (02/2002); Edition 4
- Portals (05/2001); Edition 3
- Reporting (12/2000); Edition 2
- mySAP.com Workplace and Portals (08/2000); Edition 1
The “Philosophy” section – initially part of the SAP Design Guild – was included as “Edition 0”. It contains seminal articles by Karen Holtzblatt and Hugh Beyer from Incontext, Steve Calde from Cooper, and Hartmut Esslinger from frog design on subjects such as methods of software design. The texts reflect the “EnjoySAP” spirit out of which the SAP Design Guild was born.
Treasure chest and communication forum
The “Community” was the last section of the current SAP Design Guild site to be added and is also the most frequently updated part of the website. Here users can find a wide range of information offerings they can also contribute to themselves:
- The “Design Tidbits” provide articles on a range of design subjects, such as simplification, visual design, interactive design, web applications, or hierarchies. User interface designers can also find tips to assist them in their everyday work.
- The “Editorials” are produced by members of the “SAP Design Guild” editorial team. The editorials introduce a new edition, review recent events, or stimulate readers to think about their own design work.
- “Stories” gathers together event reports, project reports and articles on interesting topics. For instance, Carlos Bezos Daleske from DaimlerChrysler in Spain published a report on an ethnographic study undertaken by the automobile company.
- The “browsers’ corner” of the SAP Design Guild is called “Books & People” and includes portraits of well-known figures from the design scene, book reviews, a comprehensive book list, and numerous links to information for practicing user interface designers. This section is supplemented by an events calendar.
- The “Forum” provides users with the opportunity to discuss questions concerning visual and user interface design.
Focal point for beginners and professionals
The SAP Design Guild reflects SAP’s commitment to user-friendly solutions, and the information website has acquired a good reputation in the design world. The website attracts beginners and students as well as professionals. The lively feedback from visitors provides encouragement for the editorial team and gives it helpful suggestions for ways to improve the site.
Inquiries to the editors of SAP Design Guild