Considering the User: Enterprise App Design

From functionality to purpose, there is a significant difference between consumer and enterprise apps. But the sheer number of consumer app—and the competitiveness of the field—means that they have to work hard to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. Great functionality isn’t enough for a consumer app: they also have to give users a good experience or they will be abandoned.

What can we apply to enterprise apps from the successes and failures in the consumer space?

A little style never hurt

Enterprise applications are often utilitarian in nature. Because they are created for a purpose, to fulfil particular a need by a specific group of people, it’s easy for developers to fixate solely on function without considering the ways people will actually use the program.

Users are fickle. With an increasing amount of choices, they’ll abandon an app if they don’t see the immediate value over the frustration inherent in any learning curve. Considering the user experience will invariably result in a reduced number of employee complaints after the app is launched.

By anticipating needs and building solutions, we can develop advocates that will help expand the usage of the app in a business. That, in turn, may lead to recommendations in new businesses, a fantastic way build relationships by solving common problems.

Problem-solving must remain the primary purpose for any development. Putting a new coat of paint on a rusty frame will only serve to alienate an already disenchanted user base. But spending time creating a positive user experience will pay dividends.

What to look for

When we think of consumer apps, we think about mobile. While enterprise is pushing toward a mobile-first environment, it’s not there yet. What we can take away, however, are the ways that people interact with technology to boost productivity and useability.

Current design trends highlight key areas to look for when developing your own platform, including adding quick navigational shortcuts to key functions. We are no longer tied to flat, vertical scrolling; rather can think about designing in three dimensions that reflect how users think and interact with tech, rather than how things have always been done.

What’s the value?

The limited amount of tools in the enterprise space can make innovation seem daunting or even pointless. The potential gains, however, can come in productivity and reputational improvements. Staff can seem superhuman when they’re gathering relevant data for customers, which can mean real money to your business.

This is all great in theory, of course, but the day-to-day demands in a business can push you to get something out, rather than taking time to make it user-friendly. While this won’t change, all we can do is encourage you to take the user in to consideration while putting out something they will be using as a matter of course in their daily lives.

If you have already changed some of your design principles, what have you experienced? Share your comments below, and join the conversation on LinkedIn.

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