Enterprise software has long been synonymous with bad user experience design. When challenged, defenders of the status quo will cite a number of factors: purchasers not being the end users, complexity of products and industries, lock-in with existing technology, or training required.
Challenges like these are indeed significant obstacles to beautiful UX, but they’re not insurmountable. Unfortunately, the argument for keeping things ugly tends to boil down to a defeatist, “That’s just the way it is.” This is a classic is-ought fallacy – that because things are a certain way means they should be.
At Apprenda, we keenly feel the pressure to focus on serving our customers’ primary goals. Our platform is literally putting planes in the sky, so clearly that functionality and reliability takes precedence over finer points like typeface selection and button placement. But, we don’t believe these big core functionality pieces diminish the importance of good design or give us an excuse to “get by” with experiences we know could be improved.
An example illustrating our philosophy around UX involves an early version of our humble loading icon:
See the issue? It doesn’t rotate as it should; instead, it wobbles like a training wheel about to fall off. Normally this category of visual bug would be a quick adjustment to the front-end code and we’d move on, but for various reasons I won’t bore you with, fixing this particular aberration represented a significant amount of effort for our developers.
When they’re not affecting usability, slowing users down, or compromising features, it’s easy to de-prioritize UX flaws so ostensibly trivial as our loading icon glitch. However, that doesn’t mean they should be ignored altogether, as too often happens in enterprise software. More than just a coat of paint, Apprenda views design as inseparably interwoven with the functionality of our core platform and critical to its success.
The ramification of this particular bug was on the nebulous but very real “feel” of the product. Every interaction a user has with a product elicits an emotional response, and we want to craft those intentionally. It’s imperative that our customers trust what they’re investing in as solid, and red flags like an unexpected loading animation are a cue they factor in – consciously or not – into their evaluation of quality. The rest of our experience is researched and crafted to feel as frictionless as possible, and this marred that polish.
So, we fixed it:
We live in an increasingly literate design culture, where our mobile apps provide 24/7 reminders of why UX matters. Fortune 500 executives wonder (rightly) why the tools that back their companies’ businesses should be an exception to the beautiful design standards of those they use on a daily basis to check email, log fitness activity, or catch a ride home.
Apprenda believes enterprise products should strive for the same excellence in UX as “consumer-level” products, and recent industry data provides business validation for this belief. One of the ways we differentiate our offerings is through attention to powerful and elegant design solutions for our users, and we’re excited about the upward trajectory of improvement of our own product as well as the applications it’s running.