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.
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]*
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.
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.
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.
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.