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Software will never be beautiful - it's the experience that counts

Claus Jepsen Profile picture for user Claus Jepsen September 5, 2018
Instead of making enterprise software beautiful, think UX vs UI - design a user experience that just gets stuff done, writes Unit4's Claus Jepsen

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For almost a decade, we’ve talked about wanting to modernize enterprise software user interfaces (UI) to match consumer software, but we’ve gone about it the wrong way. The modernization of UI was proposed as a solution to meet the increased expectations that enterprise software should be as simple to use and nice to navigate as the applications we use at home from any device. But investing in software UI that merely looks beautiful is a waste of time and resources.

Focusing on a good-looking UI isn't understanding of how users in the future want to experience apps. There’s a shift in preferences to modern user experience (UX) principles, such as conversational UX and purpose-built UX, where the experience is about the optimal way to arrive at an outcome. Enterprise software vendors should consider the user experience and incorporate UX design in their systems. Here's why it counts.

No one wants to deal with enterprise software unless they have to

Enterprise software hasn't often had a reputation for being user-friendly. In modern times, much of this has been due to archaic strategies that heavily emphasized UI over UX. The goal was to achieve the look that consumer software offered users. However, making ERP software look good, without considering how the user interacts with it day to day, is pointless. This approach only serves to place a Band-Aid on an unresolved issue. Without reconsidering UX, the ERP may not be efficient for users.

In reality, no one truly wants to use enterprise software unless they have to. In fact, a 2017 Unit4 survey revealed that 76% of end-users don't like enterprise software, while 34% loathe it. Without thinking about the end user, it's hard to design an ERP system that will get used and which supports people’s effectiveness at work. Moving beyond UI and incorporating UX in the design of enterprise products is crucial to driving adoption.

Usability drives adoption

To achieve adoption, usability needs to be at the forefront of design and implemented alongside UI. Our experience shows that people prefer to interact with systems using conversational UX and purpose-built UX.

  • With conversational UX, users can have an enhanced experience with conversational systems that are human-like, such as enterprise software that leverages chatbots via instant messaging, virtual assistants, and other AI-powered apps and devices that help users get answers to their questions.
  • Purpose-built UX focuses the design on the specific outcome, while limiting the number of interactions needed for users to complete a task.

It's important to customize the experience to fit the user so that it's not only simple to do but also effective. This calls for enterprise software vendors to rethink how they approach design. Instead of focusing on building forms or screens, vendors should focus on how to design interactions so they can make systems that people want to use.

The great news is that much of this can be done with the help of automation that is powered by machine learning. Conversational UX can also prove valuable in complementing automation by completing the rest of the job. Purpose-built UX plays an important role too in enhancing the customer experience.

Rather than forcing users to adopt general-purpose ERP software to solve every specific problem, vendors should create an app that is targeted and designed to fix the issue at hand. This helps to facilitate tasks that require UI or are easier to complete with UI.

UX provides increased ROI

Investing in UX is essential for the future workforce who expect simple apps that help rather than hinder. Modernized ERP that leverages UX will also deliver enhanced return on investment (ROI). Much of this can be attributed to the simplification of training programs for the ERP. Workers will no longer accept complex training programs for using systems at work. Even if they undertake the programs, they are unlikely to absorb what’s being taught. By focusing software development on UX, the need for complex training programs can be drastically reduced. With no need to learn how to use difficult ERP systems, the end user can remain productive and efficient, and the business can realize an increased ROI.

On top of that, as more organizations move to a services mindset, those that succeed will be the ones that empower their employees to be effective. To deliver excellent customer service and to initiate and drive innovation in their organizations, they will need technology to support them.  It has to be as helpful, quick, and easy as Alexa or as restaurant delivery apps and taxi booking apps are today.

Final takeaway

With an enterprise software development strategy that incorporates UX, organizations can enhance operational efficiency, improve customer experience and increase their ROI.

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