User Experience, Enterprise Software and Multiple Personality Disorder - Part 2
In my last post, I attempted to answer the question, 'Is user experience important for software in the enterprise?'. I'm a firm believer in the impact of software usability in reducing stress at work!
Let's continue with the 'good, bad and ugly' section from my last post, where I explored current trends and do's/don'ts for enhancing UX in enterprise software.
3. Notification deluge
Have you been in a situation where you’ve felt like the phone in your pocket vibrated only to find out that there was no actual email notification? I happened to stumble upon an article recently that spoke of phantom vibration syndrome.³ I had always dismissed this as a joke, but apparently it’s a real condition!
A study published in 2012, found that 89% of the 290 undergraduate students who participated, had experienced phantom vibrations from their device.⁴ This behavior is not experienced by students alone. Another independent study performed on medical staff found that 68% of the participants experienced phantom vibrations from their electronic device, most experiencing them weekly or monthly.⁵
Push notifications in the form of text messages and emails are effective but should be reserved for important events. While notifications are a fairly old concept, enterprise software are still playing catch up with consumer apps. Where they’re lacking is the quality and quantity of visual indicators and in-app notifications to keep the user aware of certain events. These events may or may not necessitate an action from the user. Inbound marketing software, HubSpot⁶ uses real-time notifications wisely to indicate the status and nature of customer interaction as below:
- An email is opened
- A link is clicked
- HubSpot website visit
Another important trend is the use of Activity Streams to show these notifications, while working in the application. Here’s an example of HubSpot’s Activity Stream notifications.
Collaboration in the workplace requires several hands on the same application and potentially the same task at the same time. It is critical in this situation to be notified of edits in real-time. A fine example of managing conflicts due to simultaneous edits in a collaborative environment is Google spreadsheets.
4. Tab Deluge
As much as I’d like to believe that we’ve moved on since the days of ‘Tab-deluge’, sights like the one below (left), are still easy to find in enterprise software. While having a centralized hub for the application’s settings is intuitive, it’s safe to say that I’ll need to read the Help manual to locate the exact setting that I'm looking for. I liken this to driving on the freeway at 60 miles/hour and encountering a roadsign like this (below right). The resulting frustration is quite familiar.
A settings page like that of the enterprise helpdesk software, Freshdesk is certainly refreshing and a reminder of how much better the settings screen could be.
5. Less is More
While information is key to making decisions in most enterprise situations, presenting them all in the same screen as below(left) is a big no. Also, colors can be a great tool for enhancing usability when done right. A colorful collage like the image below (left) is better suited to a kid's scrapbook than an enterprise software. A sharp contrast would be BizSlate’s interface to create sales orders, as shown below to the right.
6. I want more options….. NOT!
One of my biggest peeves with several enterprise software is the numerous ways of doing the same thing! While I totally appreciate Google Maps for presenting me with multiple routes to reach my destination with commute times for each route (image on the left), it is counter-productive in the context of enterprise software. I’m guilty of having created ‘Best Practice’ training guides for my clients in the past explaining Pros and Cons of different approaches to do the same task. Let’s face it! I’d rather have a poster of my favorite soccer team (Go Gunners!) on my cubicle wall as opposed to a ‘Best Practices’ cheat sheet of how to generate a parts list for a product!
The options to create a new email in Outlook are right next to each other (image below to the right). The 'E-mail message' option in the 'New Items' list seems redundant. While, in this case the end product is exactly the same no matter which option you select, the same can’t be said about a lot of enterprise software out there. Nevertheless, it begs the question why?
While this is, by no means, an exhaustive list of dos/don’ts for good user experience nor does it cover all the latest trends in UX design, the point is to get the conversation started again in the context of enterprise software. Having worked with engineers for most of my career, I am particularly passionate about the UX of software used by engineering teams to manage their product development processes. At FusePLM, we're working hard to enhance this experience, through usability trends that I've listed in these 2 blogs.
What are some items that would enhance your working experience with enterprise software?
- Neochange, Sandhill Group and the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), (2009) - “Achieving Enterprise Software Success”
- Michelle Drouin et al., (2012) – “Phantom vibrations among undergraduates: Prevalence and associated psychological characteristics” in Computers in Human Behavior, Vol 28., Issue4
- Michael B Rothberg et al., (2010) - “Phantom vibration syndrome among medical staff: a cross sectional survey” in BMJ