Imagine you have recently purchased a new solution that is going to revolutionize the way your company does business. After nearly three months of evaluating solutions, the solution you have decided on is the most high tech, has all the best features, and is guaranteed to meet the needs of your business. Upon implementation, you are surprised at the push-back you receive from the team and some of the negative feedback you receive about the solution. What seemed like a perfect fit and something so easy to use, may now take two or three months of training and managing change for the team members to actually adopt the solution. How did this happen?
When evaluating new software solutions, the purchase decision usually comes down to the product that sufficiently meets the primary business needs, has the most impressive features, is both reliable and secure, and is procured for a reasonable cost. And this decision is almost never made by the end users. The factor that likely did not come up in our example above and that does not come up often enough is the end user experience.
User adoption is a result of simple and effective application design. If an application doesn’t enable end users to complete work easily without the technology getting in their way, users may resist change, and your application will not have the opportunity to fulfill its potential for positive impact. Unfortunately, this story is all too common. With enterprise software, the end user is often faced with unnecessarily complicated workflows, irrelevant design elements, flashy-yet-useless functionality, and developer-centric design.
Many companies today have unique business processes and require customized solutions. Customizable solutions also enable application designers to craft a simpler, more effective end user experience. Here are a few simple things to focus on with application design and customization that can have a dramatic effect on positive user experience:
- Focus on the central business process. It can be tempting to try to solve for everything all at once but remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day. The end user wants to be able to complete their work quickly and easily. This can be accomplished by designing the application with their workflow in mind so there are minimal clicks, scrolling and thinking required to accomplish their work within the application.
- Put the brakes on scope creep. Often times a product is evaluated and eventually purchased based on a very simple need, but as more is learned about the capability of the new product, the scope of the new product rollout (and the amount of change required of the end user) increases. If the first iteration or version of the solution can be kept aligned to the primary goals that initiated change in the first place, end users are going to be more likely to accept and absorb the change.
- Keep it simple. For now, avoid implementing all those impressive extra features that are not mission-critical to accomplishing the main work in the application. The solution you have selected may have all the bells and whistles that you might eventually want to use, but if users don’t have a reason to use them right now, they could just end up being more of a distraction.
- Group users into like “roles” to simplify each group’s experience. Roles allow you to define custom permissions for what users can see and do in an application. Most administrators use this function for restrictive or security purposes however, savvy application designers use roles to assist with ease of use and user experience. For example, in an application for Sales and Project Management, there may be no reason to restrict a salesperson from seeing project data, but why not remove it from their main views to simplify what they see in their workflow views?
- Consider design aesthetics. Users adopt and enjoy using applications that are aesthetically pleasing. Data entry forms should flow naturally in the way users actually do their job and data fields should be arranged logically. If fields exist that users do not use as part of their job or role, create separate forms for different user roles or separate sections on data entry forms to simplify their views. Likewise, dashboards and reports should only show users the data they need to see to get their work done. (Click here for more about Customizing Forms)
The graphic to the left is an example of application aesthetics. Both graphics are from the same data entry form however, the graphic bordered in green is the form that end users find more aesthetically pleasing.
Of course, there is only so much that can be accomplished with technology to improve user adoption. Communication with the people that will use the application is the biggest driver towards ensuring their satisfaction. Thinking about the end user experience early on in the process is likely to improve the success of the implementation. Consider a proactive approach to involving end users by inviting a team lead or veteran team member in on the evaluation and design phases to be a user voice in the process. Gaining user feedback is the best way to know how the work is currently done, what works well, what could be improved, and will eventually provide indicators on how ready users are for another round of functionality after the first implementation is adopted.
If you can customize and control the user experience in that new solution that revolutionizes the way you do business, your users will more than likely adopt it, and your implementation will more than likely be successful!