App developers in the enterprise who intensely focus on back-ends and servers when brainstorming new cloud-based apps risk neglecting design concerns and ultimately the satisfaction of end-users. After all, the user interface is the product, no matter whether it’s a customer, client or fellow employee on the other end.
It was a lesson Vinay Mehra, chief financial officer at WGBH public media, learned through experience while testing SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications with the approximately 1,300 employees who work at the Boston nonprofit organization. The mobile workforce behind organization’s television, radio and web content welcomed apps that were easy to use and shunned those that were not as intuitive, Mehra said, criticizing some enterprise resource planning vendors for attempting to shoehorn existing codes into new cloud-friendly apps.
“They forget that the experience is the most important thing,” Mehra said in a recent report on Enterprise Efficiency.
Tips for intuitive design
User-experience design should be first and foremost in the minds of SaaS app developers, who can draw on best practices so not to alienate the needs of end-users with scant time to learn new processes. Janko Jovanovic, a user-interface designer, urges developers to follow a few definitive design principles when setting out to create the next great app. In a post on Smashing Magazine, he suggests developers:
- Maintain internal consistency by applying the same navigation strategy, color scheme and terminology, and familiarity by drawing on common user experiences when choosing language and labels in the app. It could be as simple as choosing between bucket, queue or folder — three names for the same part of an organizational structure.
- Ensure efficiency by breaking up long tasks into steps, providing support for commonly used keyboard shortcuts and allowing users to personalize aspects of the app, such as the dashboard and location of certain elements.
- Create feedback mechanisms that inform users of operations in progress, the completion of tasks, such as saving information, and prompts to take action. More advanced apps follow the principle of forgiveness by allowing users to undo entries and enter dates in a variety of commonly accepted formats.
Finding the right UX designer
Building an app in-house can involve either in-house UX experts or outside consultants. Curt Raffi, marketing director for Metanga, the SaaS division of MetraTech, said in a recent interview with the Above the Fold design blog that most companies need both — a consultant to kick off user-experience exploration and in-house talent to carry through the findings and training received.
“Bottom line, if you’re not embracing the user experience, you don’t understand what it means to create an application or an online service,” Raffi said.Tags: Cloud,Software,Technology