It’s obvious why user experience (UX) design is critical to consumer-facing websites and applications. You need to make it easy for your potential customers to learn about you, buy your products, and use your applications. Ease of use leads to a higher likelihood of making money.
But what about the internal software tools used by your workforce? These aren’t seen by customers, so it doesn’t matter how they look or function as long as they do the job, right?
Sorry designers, but it’s crucial that you don’t ignore the UX of your internal software tools. Here are some very important reasons to pay attention to the UX when you develop software solutions for your workforce. This is true whether you are developing web-based, desktop, or mobile apps for your internal operations.
It’s easy to focus solely on function and not so much on having a great design for your team’s software tools. We need to break this line of thinking though because using software with a poor UX is damaging to your business in several ways.
Time spent struggling to navigate a clunky, poorly designed tool equates to money lost. Learning to use any new software will require training, but the amount of training needed is directly correlated to the complexity of the software. This training takes up valuable time that could be spent actually using the software productively.
If your menus aren’t user-friendly, your keyboard shortcuts are challenging to memorize, and your overall layout clearly wasn’t thought through, users will struggle to use your software efficiently. For example, if your software is geared toward helping your sales staff do their jobs, a badly designed UX could reduce their sales efficiency, which in turn negatively impacts your bottom line.
A UX that is geared toward productivity and efficiency can be even more critical if you are trying to support a remote workforce.
Nobody likes fighting with the tools they use every day. If you’ve ever tried to perform your job with a piece of software that runs slowly, is difficult to navigate, and is overly complex, you know this can be a daily source of frustration. A poor user experience in workforce software can lead to low employee morale as employees feel hamstrung by not being provided the tools needed to perform their job effectively.
To take this a step further, low employee morale decreases performance. Once again, this pulls money out of the business due to lower productivity.
Just because your customers aren’t directly interacting with your software doesn’t mean that your internal software tools can’t still negatively impact the customer. When an employee is assisting a customer, the customer expects to be helped in a timely fashion.
To go back to our previous example, a sales software with a poor UX design means the customer may have to wait longer than they would like as your salesperson engages in an epic battle with the software. Everyone’s time is valuable, and paying customers don’t like to be kept waiting. They want to pay you for the product they need and to move on with their day.
You probably don’t want to frustrate your customers and decrease their perception of your brand. This can be avoided if you just take care to pay attention to the UX when designing software solutions for your workforce.
Now that we’ve established why it’s so critical to focus on UX for your internal software tools, here are some quick and simple tips to help with UX design.
When we talk about clean design, we’re referring to a design that is free from clutter and unnecessary complexity. This includes keeping the navigation menus logically laid out with a straightforward hierarchy. It means not packing too much information onto a single page, which can make it difficult for the user to find what they are looking for. Give the elements on the screen room to breathe.
For desktop software, the use of keyboard shortcuts is highly encouraged. These shortcuts lead to greatly increased efficiency once the user learns them. Don’t make the learning curve a steep one, though. A steep learning curve turns a great feature into a poor user experience.
Keyboard shortcuts should be carefully thought out to include key combinations that are intuitive for the user, as this will make them easier to remember. For example, if CTRL+P is your print shortcut, but you need another shortcut for a task that also starts with the letter P, then perhaps use CTRL+Shift+P. This will be much easier for the user to remember than an alternative that incorporates a completely different letter or character.
Before rolling out the final version for your workforce to sink or swim with, consider selecting a group of employees for testing. As the designer, it’s easy to just assume that you’ve got the perfect UX. After all, you wouldn’t have made the design choices you did if it didn’t make sense to you personally. Not everyone thinks like a software designer or developer, though.
You may find that your employees are using the application with ease, and everything is working out just as you’d hoped. If that’s the case, great! However, you may find that your group of testers is struggling with understanding aspects of the design. It’s important to gather this feedback and think of ways to improve the UX to alleviate the concerns brought forth.
Anytime new software is rolled out to your workforce, there needs to be some training. The user experience can be greatly improved if you include onboarding tutorials that display the first time the software is run on a system. These tutorials don’t have to include every single detail but should clearly show the key components of the software. This will help your workforce jump in immediately to understand at least the very basic, high-level functions.
In addition, built-in support documentation is a must. Users should be able to access the documentation from the menu for clarification or instruction on any feature they are unsure of.
The user experience is just as important in software designed for the workforce as it is for customer-facing applications. A poor UX leads to a lack of productivity, decreased employee morale, and possibly even decreased customer morale. It’s critical to keep your design clean, include help or tutorials, and even have some users test the software before launch. For desktop software, don’t forget to consider adding some intuitive and time-saving keyboard shortcuts!
If you choose to seek the help of professionals to design a great solution for you, Camber Creative can help. Simply contact our team of professionals for a consultation and we’ll bring our years of software design and development experience to your project.