Dumbing SharePoint Down

I’ve been working for a specific client, almost exclusively, for a year and a half.  I’ve helped them with four major projects and many minor ones and in almost every one of those projects, I got the same sense from various people… We need to dumb SharePoint down.  Now, no one has ever come out and said those exact words, but the message was clear. 
One specific example was when working on their intranet redesign project (currently taking place).  I was explaining the concept of content types for each type of page and how to leverage field controls on page layouts.  What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that my simple explanation would turn into a multi-day debate.  I won’t bore you with the details, (mostly because I think I intentionally blocked out some details from my mind) but several of the key questions were:

  • Why would I give users more than one place to edit content/metadata?
  • How am I supposed to know where I’m supposed to edit this information?
  • As a user, should I really be expected to know that I can edit the page or edit the list item?

And other questions outside of the content type debate include:

  • How is a user supposed to know that they have to edit this web part to configure it?
  • How is a user supposed to know how a connected web part works?
  • How is a user supposed to know that there’s a content type already created for that?

From the standpoint of a person who is familiar with the product, these seem like simple, and to some extent, silly questions… But, to a “non-technical” person, are they?  The standard response to questions like these is “they need to be trained” but the client argues that it should be simple and intuitive.

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I’ve been working closely with them for a LONG time and I have a level of comfort with these guys that’s greater than some people who I could actually call co-workers.  That comfort has allowed me to get into some interesting debates with them, that I can honestly say, I wouldn’t have had with any other client. 

So what do you think?  Should SharePoint be dumbed down?  Should it only allow users to do things one way without offering variety?  I still maintain my stance that users need to be trained in order to leverage their tools effectively…  But, when I think of the 60+ year old executive that stuggles with even the simplest bit of technology, I can certainly understand the arguement.