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What you need to consider when creating software for humans
March 22, 2019
I joined the Sentia team in 2017 as an application development engineer (really just a sophisticated way of explaining I am a part of the team that develops and designs our flagship app, Sentia).
Sentia is an application that is a game changer for sales teams. A smart layer that sits on top of all of the leading CRM packages and humanizes them for users.
Like most of my colleagues, I moved in to software development from a background in sales and retail.
We have a policy of only hiring developers who have actually worked in sales.
For good reason.
As I had myself been a user of many sales applications on the floor in a retail store, I was ideally placed to create software from the point of view of a user.
When I began, I was quickly exposed to the plethora of software we ourselves use while developing Sentia for our users. Not impressed.
I quickly realised what developers should be considering when it comes to humanizing their software and what we should choose to use in Sentia terms of ‘user interface’ to ensure that our users have an enjoyable & productive journey when using our application.
In our design work we always consider the user first.
We work from the premise that if a user is confused or unsure about how to use a particular feature, it is a failure of our design.
If something isn’t clear – it is a design failure.
The impression that our app leaves behind with a user is a key factor that determines whether an application will be a success or a flop.
Design Tip 1
Don’t try breaking old habits
We can’t escape the fact that we are all creatures of habit. Up to 40% of our daily activities stem from habits that we have formed through associative learning.
When it comes to apps, we are all now very much in the habit of swiping left or right, scrolling through articles, expanding menus, clicking through cards or allowing ourselves to be directed.
We have all been trained somewhat by our consumer app experience.
Enterprise software needs to understand this and adapt.
These well-used gestures and designs are a great way to ensure that the user is comfortable with how to interact in the app. It is critical that apps do not need excessive re-training in how many fingers they need to use to open a card or swipe to find the menu.
Touch removes the need for buttons.
Touch allows far less clutter on the screen.
Touch has the potential to be understood universally, without having to rely on a word or an icon that everyone has to read as ‘chat’ or ‘home’ for example.
Whether it is touch or simply keeping navigation in the same location on the screen that we are all used to seeing, incorporating these idiosyncracies into our app is a great way to settle users into use of our app comfortably.
Design Tip 2
First impressions are everything
To create an experience that makes an app memorable & desirable, first impressions matter.
These influence our feelings about the software. In the first few seconds of using an app, from loading the app at start up to the landing page, users will make a fast decision about whether they ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a product.
If the app loads slowly or is filled with too much content on load cluttering the screen, it may be too daunting for the user to continue.
If the app uses vague wording or it is unclear as to how a user should search for what they want, users won’t go to the app for their work.
If you make the user think too much when using the app, they aren’t going to enjoy the experience.
Enterprise software is rife with these challenges and low adoption rates among users (typically 26%) are the evidence of this type of data heavy, complex screen.
Basically put, if the experience is too jarring and confusing, users are going to severely dislike your product & this will rub off on your brand perception.
A bad first impression will last and influence the user’s decision to ever come back.
According to Forrester, up to 88% of users are less likely to give an app they have had a poor experience with a second chance and they will never return to it again.
Design Tip 3
What your users see is what they think of your brand
As we have already established, first impressions matter and what the user experiences can influence whether they use the app again or not.
Unfortunately, it also influences what they think and feel of your brand. Their chief touch point with your company is the product they use – this needs to be positive or they will mistrust any other applications that you may want to sell to them.
Poor user interface design does not only make something look uninviting, but it generates distrust and leaves the impression of deeper usability issue that could make them abandon the application.
Stanford’s own web guidelines state that negative usability experiences will always lead to concerns about the company’s credibility.
It is imperative to consider that what the user sees and experiences for commercial success.
Design Tip 4
Test your product again & again .. then test some more.
It is quite easy to sit at a computer, design your app, complete the code and know your app inside and out and understand exactly how you intend for its’ features to be used.
You know it intimately BUT that can certainly cause a form of ‘user blindness’.
Many developers deploy the app and assume every user will ‘just get’ how they intended them to use the product.
Performing useability tests is an extremely important aspect of design that should be relied upon to shape the final design .
Planning quantitatively evaluated tests to determine how easy or difficult a task in your app is for users to complete can give you large amounts of user data and enormous insights.
This testing should include what users find easy and intuitive, as well as what they value most as required features and should also investigate aspects such as how they instinctively pick up & start using an app.
Testing can also be used to determine the cause of problems early enough to be able to implement solutions while in a beta stage as demonstrated in the following case study.
Vistaprint Case Study
Vistaprint redesigned part of their website to display all of their products and shortly after discovered that they were losing up to 16% of traffic in early page exits.
They implemented a user study and deliberately observed participants using Vistaprint’s newly designed pages and listened to their feedback.
The study uncovered the core of the issue.
Although their new page was much more enticing and visually stimulating than their old page, it had created a two-step process of revealing each product and hindered the users’ ability to skim through the products quickly.
This was enough for them to lose their customers’ interest quickly and was costing them business.
Vistaprint was able to observe this and listen to what their users were telling them and address the problems they were having quickly.
They realised that it is important to not be afraid to adapt when things aren’t working. By implementing a well-planned usability test, areas needing adjusting can be discovered.
Whilst there is more to developing an app than simply its’ design, this can certainly make or break a user’s experience of your app. It is integral to its’ success and how users then feel about your company.
When it comes to good design, always keep in mind that the experience of the target audience is the most crucial determinant of success or failure.
You are building products for use by another human being with a very different set of preferences, skills and expectations than the average software developer.
Do not ever forget this.
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