A poorly designed enterprise app costs time, money, and productivity. The problem? Way too many still think that’s acceptable. But in the current business climate, CEOs are more inclined to switch vendors than employees if users struggle with the software.
The key is to treat employees like a customer in their own right. If 45 percent of businesses aren’t conducting UX testing, there’s even less chance it’s happening internally. Switching focus to balance simplicity, non-linear workflows, and security in enterprise apps will pay off in a productivity boost for your company.
Let’s get into it.
Beauty isn’t everything
The B2C market has dominated the principles of app design. Steve Krug’s “don’t make me think” mantra has been turned into a focus on simplicity and slickness above all else. In B2C, this works. After all, half of Android apps were uninstalled within 30 days of download in 2022, and half were removed within 24 hours.
Enterprise apps are different, though. The people using them are professionals and, more often than not, are ‘power users’ by default since their job requires them to be. They also rarely have the option not to use an app.
So, effective and innovative enterprise UX design requires a slightly different approach. And it’s not easy.
Enterprise UX considerations
Making something beautiful requires skill, of course. But making something truly functional is genuinely hard, which is why enterprise apps often fall short. You have to adopt an experimental mindset, get creative and come up with a lot of great ideas. And you have to accept that most of those ideas won’t work when you test them with users.
That’s ok though. It’s how you iterate something great. Lean into the idea that designing for success requires time, patience and commitment to the process.
And with that, let’s dig into some of the key questions and considerations that inspire great enterprise UX ideas.
While you might assume most enterprise users want to complete tasks easily, their primary goal is to do their job well enough to impress their boss and do it in time to get home for dinner.
The most common measures of enterprise UX success are, therefore:
- Whether there is an intuitive connection between actions at the start of a workflow and the outputs at the end
- Whether a user can get a task right on the first try and repeat that task quickly
The first is about bridging the gap between different users so that a person understands how their choices will affect people downstream at any given step in a process. This encourages a strategic focus on outcomes and better-quality company data.
The second is about instilling confidence in users that they can get things done. Good for the individual, and good for the business.
With enterprise UX, you face two issues:
- Multiple modules, integrations, and features of enterprise applications
- Varied user profiles
The key here isn’t necessarily to simplify from the start. Powers users need the flexibility to select the path or workflow they need, so they need more options at the beginning.
How those options are presented should be based on user prioritization. If someone only completes a task once a year, they’ll happily dig through a few levels to find what they need. Tasks they complete daily need to be front and center.
The trick is then to strike a balance as users dive deeper into any given workflow. Once they’ve selected what they want to do, the design should be solely focused on that task.
Of course, the decision maker on the software isn’t usually the end user - and herein lies the issue. With budgets to balance and without skin in the game, it’s too easy for functionality to win ahead of seamless usability.
Balancing the stakeholders’ objectives shouldn’t mean sacrificing UX for those using the app daily. Besides, UX adds functionality to make work easier - something all stakeholders like to hear.
Principles of UX for enterprise
Every company faces unique challenges when it comes to enterprise UX. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but these core principles will set you on the path to a winning project.
Simple - but not too simple
B2C UX and enterprise UX are worlds apart: one’s about visual appeal, the other functionality. So, how do we marry the two to help employees with their work?
It’s crucial to create a clean and straightforward enterprise app interface. Hide too much away, though, and you risk employees missing out on useful components. Workers with complex tasks won’t appreciate hard-to-find functionality hidden for the sake of clean UI.
Finding this balance could lie in grouping features or offering personalized dashboards or collapsible sidebars for users to pick and choose what they see. Testing the prototype early on quickly refines the program before any costly mistakes are made.
Design for non-linear workflows
Enterprise users need software to be flexible so they can use it as they see fit for their workflows. For instance, a project manager using software might need to create a new project without assigning team members first or adding tasks before specifying a deadline.
Forcing users down rigid, linear pathways creates unnecessary friction for the end user and blocks rather than boosts productivity. Instead, focus on creating consistent usability regardless of the user’s preferences.
Security at every step
Enterprise software often handles sensitive data, so the latest security measures are integral for success. Plus, it helps with stakeholder buy-in.
To help users feel secure no matter how they use the software, focus on building layers of security. This could include multi-factor authentication, encryption methods, and other security measures specific to your industry. Marking out in-app guidance or training to help educate users will help to ensure everyone in the company is on the same page.
The specific needs of your users and company will dictate how UX weaves into your enterprise software. Collaborate with teams to understand their most critical processes. And remember to research the context of a task. Balancing ease of use with nudges to encourage accurate data entry can be a valuable trade-off in enterprise UX.
Consideration and planning beforehand can create a seamless experience that balances functionality and cost. The benefits are tenfold if applied correctly. Investing time and resources now could revolutionize your company’s workflows.