Enterprise software is unique in that it comes with a ready-made group of users. Because a company’s leadership has chosen to build a software solution and mandated its use, they require employees to use it. And because users are guaranteed, companies often aren’t as concerned about experience design as they should be. Whether it’s an inventory tracking software, an HR portal, or a complex custom ERP system, enterprise software is notorious for clunky user experiences.
The problem is that enterprise software users aren’t as guaranteed as their organizations would like to believe. If the software system disrupts workflows or is simply too difficult to use, employees may try to bypass using the software, creating their own workarounds. This results in poor adoption levels, and the organization never sees anticipated productivity gains. Best-case scenarios include employees who are forced to use the software but spend too much time trying to navigate complex, poorly-designed interfaces. Money and development time is wasted, leaving companies back at square one.
How can software designers ensure that enterprise software is as easy to use as SaaS offerings? In this post, we’ll explore how to apply UX principles to build better enterprise software.
1. Understand the Goals
First, you need to know what the company is trying to achieve with the software. Do they want to reduce the amount of time employees are spending on tasks? Streamline operations? Simplify processes? Beyond the requirements, what is the software aiming to do? Knowing the organization’s goals will give you a framework for design.
2. Understand the Users
Remember that, ultimately, you’re designing for the organization’s employees, not the head of IT. Find out what various user types will be engaging with the software. Then, learn the workflows of each user type. Explore the other systems that users will need the software to integrate with. Uncover what functionality they need in order to benefit from using the software.
3. Envision an Interface that Encourages Adoption
As a designer, you’ll know you’ve fully done your job if you achieve 100% (or realistically, near-100%) adoption. Applying what you’ve learned in Step 2, envision an interface that makes users eager to adopt the software. If the software frees up time, reduces the headaches involved in completing tasks, and is easy to use, employees will happily adopt the software. Consider all user types, and ensure that the design meets each one’s needs.
Good user experience design revolves around simplicity. From the language used on buttons to the number of clicks required to complete a task, your design should favor simplicity. Users should not have to stop and think about the actions involved in using the software — they should be able to stay focused on their work. The user experience should be intuitive, and if a user makes a mistake, it should guide him or her through the proper procedure.
5. Don’t Forget to Gather Feedback
No one knows better than the users what they need. Once you’ve outlined a plan for your interface, take it to the users to get their feedback. Did you miss anything? Did you inadvertently introduce something that will create hiccups later on? Iterate your idea based on this feedback.
UX design shouldn’t be relegated to commercial software. Enterprise software success depends on an excellent user experience for good adoption rates, which are essential for accomplishing the organization’s goals for the software.
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