One Big Reason Why NOT to Start App Dev with UI

You’re excited about your amazing idea to modernize your complex business application. You’ve scoped it, you know that it will solve a problem for your target users and it might even make you more competitive. You’ve identified your UI libraries and are ready to get started. Right?

Not so fast. Let’s take a step back and go a little deeper and think about what will make your application unique and better. What will make users want to come back to it again and again? What will make it stand out against the competition? You already know the answer, which we explored in our previous UX-related blog posts (blog.servoy.com).

Why selecting UI frameworks @ the start = no bueno

An easy, intuitive user experience is essential to making your application a success. In large, established enterprises, this philosophy is shepherded by a product manager, but in smaller organizations, developers can get carried away by looking at the process primarily from a development perspective. Maybe KendoUI is calling your name. Maybe it’s Twitter Bootstrap or Google Material Design that you prefer. But you must resist.

How an MVP Becomes Your Most Valuable Asset

What better way to put your users first then to let them drive how the application evolves, to let them help create the application they need? The best way to do this is through starting with an MVP, or minimum viable product, build it in an Agile way, with constant end-user testing, exposure and feedback. Think of it as efficient crowd sourcing to build your application, a way to enable rapid application development, and a product that is, by design, successful. Stay tuned for more on MVPs in the next blog post.

Here’s What Not to Do

Take a look at the video about “Best Practices: UI/UX Modernization,” which shows you where NOT to start in the application development process. There are plenty of similar recommendations from various industry experts to support this philosophy. Additional references about UX first as a best practice are included below.

Learn More about a “UX First” Approach

Here are additional sources around this approach:

Want to learn what this would mean to you, Get a free UX consult here.

 

Three Ways to Deliver a Better User Experience (UX)

Have you noticed a common theme in the last several Servoy blogs (“It All Begins With a Delightful Customer Experience” and “Driving the App Dev Vehicle Top-Down”)? They both focus on a single topic: the customer experience. This strategy of focusing more on helping the customer, not selling the product or features, has been around since the beginning of the digital era. But building a beautiful user experience into a business application—easier said than done!  

How to Meet Today’s User Expectations

For ISVs and developers who are building enterprise applications or modernizing complex business apps, the end product should have a focus of providing a smooth, seamless, productive, and intuitive customer (or user) experience. Today’s consumers of applications are sophisticated, with high expectations about the look and feel and the experience. The baseline for this experience continues to evolve, making for some tough competition. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about user experience. Do we mean an attractive UI, easy navigation…or optimizing productivity—or all three?

Defining and Designing Your UX Strategy

The secret to creating a great UX all begins with a well-articulated UX strategy. You might assume that a product manager (PM) could create and execute a UX strategy because their objectives are similar, with one big difference—UX strategy has a laser-like focus on the user experience and productivity compared with the PM’s focus on the product’s business value or profitability. The roles of UX specialist and PM are also alike in that both are concerned about whether the product is technically feasible, but the UX strategy takes a granular look at how a user responds to and interacts with an application. This includes an attractive user interface and intuitive navigation with the end goal of optimizing user productivity.

User experience strategists rely on the principles of UX design to help understand, describe and document the ideal experience. UX strategists communicate the target experience to the wider organization through concept models, diagrams and other abstractions. They oversee the final execution of that vision, to ensure the final output meets the stated goals. To some extent, all good designers do this. However, UX strategists focus only on this aspect, disregarding areas such as the information architecture. To sum it up, UX is a specialized field of study that requires education to become certified so don’t make the mistake and think that your product strategist (or even a CTO) can do what a UX specialist does.


Roadmap for a Successful UX strategy

The following are three key recommendations that will help you succeed in bringing your revamped or new business application to market better and faster. Your goal should be to invest in understanding how your users can benefit optimally from your application, whether it’s brand new or a modernized version.

To understand your users:

  1. Contract a UX specialist—Work with a UX specialist before you begin the application development process. This will be an upfront investment but one that pays high dividends by ensuring your application lives up to its potential. As mentioned earlier, this professional is specially trained in the principles of UX, a specific discipline that goes beyond graphic design and marketing.
  2. Do a UX study—The specialist will sit next to your users and observe them to understand the tasks they need to perform and the most productive pattern to help accomplish them.
  3. Create the ideal path forward—The UX specialist will provide feedback with clear direction on how to create the optimal user experience.

Stay tuned for more

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk more about UX design and why “failing fast” and using a minimal viable product (MVP) approach works best for rapid application development of business applications.

Recommended reading:

ROI of User Experience March 2017, Tech Republic

Get Your Free Trial of the Servoy RAD Platform Now.

It All Begins With A delightful customer experience

I’ve been in a leadership role at a small software company for longer than I care to admit.
To be honest, if you had talked to me several years ago, I would have bet my Mini Cooper on the fact that technology—specifically software development tools and approaches, would have evolved by now to be less complex. And in some ways, it is. With today’s low-code and rapid application development (RAD) technology platforms, application development can be easier than ever. But easier for the developer, not necessarily for the end user.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a common mistake that many developers make is to get caught up in the features and functionality of a program and forget to have empathy for the end user and their experience. The development process often starts in a “bottom-up” manner, when it should start with the customer, defining who that is, and their objective. That adage, “It’s all about the customer” remains true today.
As a software vendor, my company—like many ISVs—is challenged by increasing competition, diminishing resources, and ever-higher customer expectations around the end result. But so many technology products miss the boat on this. Let me give you a few real-world examples of what I mean.

Dear *[FNAME]*

Recognize that? One recent—and very common—example just happened at my own company. My demand generation team was using a new-to-us tool, the MailChimp app, to email our monthly newsletter to our customers and prospects. Cutting and pasting the identical command from the source code in MailChimp *[FNAME]* into the next template did not work, even though logically, it should have. To the human eye, the code appeared identical and the command should have pulled in every recipient’s name from our database. As a result, this entire series of emails went out with this salutation: Dear *[FNAME]*

Enhancements, Innovations and Upgrades Can Come at a Cost

When applications are continually enhanced and upgraded, the user experience can have a dramatically negative impact. Take Skype, for example. As an end user, every time there is an update, I am forced to get used to an entirely new user interface. Although I’m well-versed in technology, it’s annoying when I end up fumbling trying to figure the new way to share my screen during an important customer meeting. I’ve also seen a lack of integration between the mobile app and the laptop version causing instant messages to be lost deep into cyberspace, and co-workers getting very mad at each other in the process … Facebook is another example of how an “upgrade” can change how users interact with other users and the application itself—and they’re not shy about complaining about it.
If you look at more sophisticated programs such as Google Analytics, it takes complexity to a whole new level. If you are doing anything digital (which, of course, you are), you need GA. It gives you essential information about (you guessed it!) your customer’s digital behavior. The downside is that you almost need an advanced degree to navigate within the application, as well as decipher the meaning and nuances of its metrics. Even for the tech-savvy among us, GA is not for the faint of heart.

5 ways to create a great UX

The terms user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. UI design focuses on what the interface looks like and the optimal arrangement of elements on the screen. UX, on the other hand, focuses on empathy for what it feels like to interact with and use the software while getting your work done in the most efficient way.
Here are 5 ways you can help create a positive UX:
1. Understand your user and their goals (Duh!)
2. Eliminate technical issues
3. Focus on sub-second performance and quick interaction
4. Simplify navigation
5. Use recognizable icons consistently with intuitive paths

Regarding bullet 1 above, about understanding your user, you should consider doing it the way Jonar redesigned their app. After every sprint, they put a novice user in front of what they built and instructed them to place an order or do some other task without any help or instructions. If the user could not do it the sprint failed.

Work Smart, Code Less

The good news is that if you pick a RAD environment you’ll have more time to perfect and excel in UI and UX. While using a RAD, you don’t have to build and maintain a stack, which frees you to focus on where you add value – the UX side of your app.

Stack the Odds in Your Favor

Our goal is to keep it simple but at the same time, keep the customer experience your top priority—and we help you keep it simple, so you are free to do more meaningful activities at your organization. If you want to learn more, feel free to message me directly or visit the Servoy website.

Driving the App Dev Vehicle Top-Down

It’s All About the User eXperience

My team and I are constantly talking to our customers about putting their customers first. Because when it comes to developing or modernizing an application, we all know that in today’s digital era, you need to put the user first. Industry advice repeatedly recommends Start from the front end, and build from the “top down” and you can hear the words echoing down the internet pathways.

Not surprising, is it? This coming decade is often labeled as “the decade of design” with the increasing digitization of products and services–and the need to make them consumable, visually appealing, and user-centric. Designing with user experience (UX) in mind is simply good business.

Backing Yourself Into a Corner with a Backend-First Approach

But as a developer, it is tempting to jump right in and build “the app for that” yourself, from scratch. You take pride in your developer prowess. And you appreciate the power of your backend coding and its capabilities, so that when you get to the finished product and look at the “front end” user interface, you lean back, survey your handiwork, and smile with satisfaction. Your work here is done, right? Everything works well and makes sense to you, because you’ve been working with the core technology for so long.

Alas, it is all too easy to lose sight of this. In fact, recently at Servoy, we made this mistake when building our new website. We wanted a sexier website, one that was easier to navigate, and one with a more appealing user design. (Check it out and see if you agree we succeeded: www.servoy.com.) We are smart, we said to our collective self. Let’s build it ourselves, from the bottom up. We had access to WordPress, an industry-proven CMS. So pushing the website live was no problem. And superficially, we did accomplish our goal fairly quickly and inexpensively.

The website looked great. Everyone loved it. Big thumbs up. But wait. There was one big problem we discovered a couple weeks after launching the site. We forgot about one tiny little user, Google! Our user interface was fine, but some important SEO-related tags were omitted in the source code. Actually, ALL the SEO-related tags were left off and the website had turned into a maze of redirects. As a result, the visits to our website plummeted and we were left scratching our heads. Several weeks later, we called in SEO experts for an assessment. Two months later, we confirmed that the problem was fixed. SEO is on track. (The happy ending is that site visits ARE on the rise.) But all of this could have been avoided if we had started from the top down, with the end-user and Google [wink] in mind – and enlisted the help of experts.

Modernize Complex Biz Apps with a Top-Down Approach

The point is this: to do things right, you need to start with from the top down. This logic even makes sense when calculating deadlines, for example. You start at the deadline and work backward with estimated times of subtasks.

At Servoy, we help you easily and quickly modernize your complex business applications with a better user experience, which is a win-win for you–and for your customer. Your customer gets the app in their hands quickly and you get the app to market faster. CSAT is high all the way around.

By the way, stay tuned for more insightful articles from me coming soon–about rapid application development platforms and more!

Follow me on Twitter at @YBOOM or connect at www.linkedin.com/in/yvoboom