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Goodbye “good enough” apps. Hello “design-first” experiences.

This article was reposted with permission from Bruce Richardson, Chief Enterprise Strategist, Salesforce. Read the original post here.

I started writing about the enterprise applications market in 1988 when I joined AMR Research as the company’s first Chief Research Officer. Looking back, It’s incredible how the software industry tortured its early customers with green screens, command line interfaces, mnemonics, complex menus, and the like. The punishment continues today especially for users of legacy MRP II/ERP systems well past their “best used by” dates.

The enterprise app design dilemma

Despite the tech industry’s commitment to creating “consumer-grade experiences,” too many enterprise apps remain painful to use, making low user adoption the norm. Why is an intuitive UX such a challenge?

Some vendors without good native interfaces have resorted to building new front ends to their apps. Earlier this year I received an email from one of our account executives. He had a customer using one of these front ends. The customer wondered if he could use Salesforce as a “front end to the front end.”

Users will adopt an app that eliminates daily pains and makes their lives easier. But, they’ll swiftly reject technology that isn’t intuitive. Why? They simply don’t have the time or patience to help you pinpoint your product’s shortcomings, nor should they have to. Especially now with the pandemic and a remote work climate, there’s no margin for inefficiencies.

Consider, too, that UX extends beyond the digital sphere and into the analog corners of your company. How many of your employees are bogged down with manual and inefficient workflows? Finding ways to digitize their daily processes will drastically improve their experience and increase productivity.

According to a study conducted by Zensar, “More than three-fourths (76%) of the 1,000-plus survey group said having the digital tools they need at work makes them more productive.”

To help with this digitization, some companies turn to stock apps. But these don’t offer the level of customization most businesses need because they rarely match the unique workflows or the processes and roles of your people, so you don’t get the full value of your investment.

Stock applications also make it difficult for users to enter the right data at the right time and to see the data they need when they need to see it. Poor data input means poor-quality output.

So, what’s the answer? How can we change the narrative for enterprise apps?

A design-first approach promotes user adoption.

Value is the main thing that drives app adoption. And the best way to deliver value is to design an app with the user’s needs in mind, not the requisites of the underlying data model.

Good design is no longer optional. As mentioned in that piece, “…poor design has a pretty hefty price tag—to the tune of $1 trillion, according to research by CareerFoundry.”

As pandemics threaten our ability to gather in person and our world goes more digital, businesses must meet the customer where they are with a “design-first” approach. And with more organizations relying on a remote workforce, companies need to re-humanize their own work experience.

CareerFoundry defines design thinking as “both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving complex problems in a highly user-centric way.”

Simply put, design thinking is human first. It works the way people work. A design-first approach facilitates:

  • Fuller adoption. Apps built with design thinking support the user, ensuring they won’t abandon new processes because they’re hard to understand. You’ll see the ROI in weeks or months.
  • Faster innovation. The nature of design thinking is fluid and swift. Faster innovation helps you outpace the competition.
  • Frequent adaptation. A design-first approach helps you regularly adapt, preventing stagnation.

Tips for design-first app development.

As mentioned, taking a design-first approach to problem-solving fits users’ processes, not the other way around. Here are some tips to keep in mind when building an app that prioritizes user adoption:

  1. There’s more to designing apps than picking fonts and colors. Focus on mirroring the way your users work. The finished product should enhance, not impede, their daily workflows. Make the experience exhilarating, not debilitating.
  2. Don’t build a quick-and-dirty app. A quick fix may be tempting but it never pays off. First, while developers may see the UX as “good enough,” users will abandon the app because the UX will be poor. Building technology this way only perpetuates bad processes. Think of your users working out of their homes that don’t have the option of asking the person at the next desk for help using the app.
  3. Find flexible development tools that help you solve problems fast, without extraneous coding. If you take a year to produce an app, it won’t meet users’ needs once completed because too much will have changed in that time.
  4. With design thinking, the work is never done. Design thinking is an ongoing process that requires iteration and keeping the experience relevant for users.

If you’re looking for ways to not only survive but thrive in an economic downturn, create experiences you’d enjoy using yourself.

Going back to my research days, when I wrote about a new technology or trend, I always made sure to include companies that were leading in that space. Take a look at Skuid which provides a UI/UX development toolkit for Salesforce applications. It takes a design-centered approach to app development. And, you can start for free.

Whether you’re building an app for your employees or your customers, you owe it to your users to give them the right tools to get their work done. This is even more important with so many of us working from home.

View the original post here.

Chief Enterprise Strategist, Salesforce

Serves as Chief Enterprise Strategist at Salesforce after nearly 20-year career as Chief Research Officer at AMR Research (now part of Gartner).