When the SAP Design Guild Website was about eight years old, Keith Instone commented on its "amazing longevity". This year, in April 2010, the SAP Design Guild celebrates its 10th anniversary, demonstrating even greater longevity on the ever-changing Internet. The site could even be regarded as a dinosaur of the Internet age! In this editorial, we would first like to thank all our visitors, our SAP User Experience managers and colleagues, and last but not least, the initiators of the SAP Design Guild (see below) for their long-standing support for the Website.
If you are a frequent visitor to our Website or have subscribed to our newsletter, you will already know that we started our anniversary preparations with the initial publication of the 10th anniversary edition at the beginning of March. We promise to add further articles to the edition during the course of the year, maybe even until March 2011, depending on how many articles we are able to collect. This editorial is our "official" recognition of the 10th anniversary of the SAP Design Guild Website, and we would like to use it to provide a quick summary of the history of the site as well as a brief outlook with regard to its future.
The origins of the SAP Design Guild Website date back to 1999, when Peer Hilgers and Leif Jensen-Pistorius from SAP's Product Design Center (PDC), together with SAP's CEO Hasso Plattner (see figure 1), defined the initial concept and purpose of the site: To make SAP's UI resources available to customers and partners, and to serve as a platform for exchanging ideas within the UI design community, both in the SAP environment and beyond. The first prototype was created at frog design inc. in Austin, TX, in October 1999, and the site was named "SAP Design Guild" then too. PDC members Peer Hilgers and Heinz Willumeit spent two weeks in Austin, and Gerd Waloszek accompanied them, not knowing that he would later become part of the SAP Design Guild team.
Figure 1: The initiators of the SAP Design Guild Website (from left to right): Peer Hilgers, Leif Jensen-Pistorius, and Hasso Plattner
In November 1999, Christine Ronnewinkel (formerly Wiegand) was assigned the task of running the Website. After nearly half a year of preparation, including reformatting the guidelines to HTML, the Website went public in April 2000. In June 2000, Gerd Waloszek became an "official" member of the SAP Design Guild team, which also included Ramona Winkler for a couple of years (see figure 2).
Figure 2: The initial SAP Design Guild team, consisting of Christine Wiegand (now Ronnewinkel), Ramona Winkler, and Gerd Waloszek (photo from 2002)
As has already been mentioned, the main purpose of the Website at the beginning was to publish and make available SAP's user interface guidelines. These were accompanied by a collection of articles under the label "innovation" that tried to capture the momentum of the Enjoy initiative that SAP had started in 1998, and that revolutionized the design of business applications (these articles are still preserved in our Philosophy Edition). This is still one of the site's main functions, but the focus has changed somewhat over the years.
We soon realized that a Website is a "living thing" that cannot be based exclusively on relatively stable content, as useful as this may be for visitors to the site. Consequently, the concept of editions was born. Editions collect articles under a common topic that is relevant to the SAP UI design field, such as portals, accessibility, branding, or collaboration. They appear between one and three times a year, offering a "mid-term" layer to the Website. However, they still do not provide the regular updates that make people visit a Website frequently. We therefore added a third, more up-to-date layer that currently populates the Community section of the site, offering articles that appear at intervals from weeks to months. These are editorials, project and conference reports (called Stories), and articles that discuss a broad range of design topics.
The books & people was the most recent addition to the Community section. Here, we offer reviews of interesting books on UI design and design topics in general, a book list, book presentations, and also a list of people who contribute to the UI design field. We also added a list of UI events that is updated as required. In addition to SAP-related information, UI professionals, practitioners, students, and interested parties can find a wealth of information about the UI design field on this site: Lists and biographies of professionals, book lists and reviews, conference reports, glossaries for various UI-related topics, link lists, and lots more. Some of this information can be found in the "Goodies" section. Visitors can even find a section about SAP's UI history here that demonstrates amongst other things how SAP's business software made the transition from terminal-based to modern Web user interfaces.
Figure 3: Initial (2000), intermediary (2003), and current (2010) look of the SAP Design Guild Website
From a technical point of view, the SAP Design Guild Website has always been a purely hand-made site. It has nevertheless undergone several technical and design changes. The initial site used a frame-based layout that was beautifully designed by frog design inc. (see figure 3 left). A couple of years later, we adopted a frameless layout that was visually oriented on SAP's portal design (see figure 3 center). The current site (see figure 3 right) is aligned with the design of the SAP's company Website and accommodates the need to publish articles with larger amounts of text and images.
With the ever-increasing pace of change, there is no point in promising our visitors another ten years of SAP Design Guild. There are many new routes along which we could proceed. We will evaluate them carefully, and will try to make the best possible decisions with regard to the future of the SAP Design Guild Website. As it stands, the Website is more of an "editor's" site than a community-based site. This approach has its advantages and disadvantages – but it makes the site special, and makes it stand out from other sites. Perhaps this is the real secret behind its longevity...? From the feedback we have received from our visitors, we know that SAP Design Guild is a well respected voice in the UI design field, and we will do our utmost to meet these expectations in the future too.
On a final note, we would once again like to thank all our visitors most sincerely for their trust in and loyalty towards the SAP Design Guild Website!