Large companies often have applications that assist their internal operations. Such internal solutions are built with an aim to make the work of employees simpler and easier. But they seldom cut the mark. Instances of such solutions becoming problems is something that we mostly hear about.
Why do such scenarios occur?
Mostly because when it comes to enterprise UX design, organizations lag behind. The importance given to consumer solutions design doesn’t extend to enterprise solutions. There is a considerable shift in priority, goals, and quality between the two. The underlying question seems to be what does one gain from investing in the UX design of internal solutions.
Surprisingly, a lot! Productive, sales, employee satisfaction- enterprise user experience design influences all these aspects.
So, let us learn more about this important but underrated domain. What it is, how it is different, the challenges it poses, and things to consider while designing. We will discuss all these topics in this article.
What is Enterprise UX
Enterprise UX refers to the design of enterprise products, that is, the products for people at work. The users are employees of enterprises and not the general customers. Hence, these solutions are tailor-made for different business domains, job roles, or organizations. Examples include HR management systems, intranets, ERP systems, and CRM systems.
Enterprise user experience is vital for businesses as it directly affects the business outcome. When employees are given tools that let them work more efficiently, it reflects in the productivity of organizations. Good enterprise UX lays the groundwork for good business.
How is Enterprise UX Different from Consumer UX
Enterprise UX and consumer UX are two completely different branches, although they come under the same umbrella. Having worked on designing solutions for both branches, we can say that they differ in their idea, execution, and goals. Here we will discuss some of the key differences between the two.
- Unlike consumer applications which are designed for a particular task, enterprise apps are designed for a business domain.
- Enterprise solutions are more complex, and a single solution may need to support multiple users and job functions. In comparison, consumer apps are simple and may need to perform only a single function.
- For enterprise solutions, the customers and users are different people. For consumer apps, the buyers are the users.
- Enterprise apps are configured by administrators, whereas consumer apps are configured by the consumers themselves.
- Consumer applications are relatively simple, and compared to them, designing enterprise apps is challenging.
- The users of enterprise apps do not have a choice when it comes to selecting or using the apps. They need to adhere to the rules of their organizations and have to mandatorily use the apps every day to perform their job. The users of consumer apps choose the apps they want to use, and their interaction with apps may not be so predictable.
- Efficiency is of much more importance in enterprise apps as users will be working on it all day.
- Enterprise apps have more scope and scale. It deals with more data and transactions than consumer apps. For designers, this is a crucial aspect while rolling out changes.
- Enterprise apps have more restrictions and stricter security requirements when compared to consumer apps.
These are some noteworthy differences between enterprise and consumer UX. However, the line between the two is blurring today. People are no longer ready to put up with bad UX. As a result, enterprises are focusing on bringing the simplicity of consumer apps to enterprise apps. Although it is much more complex in execution, designers are succeeding in finding a balance.
What are the Challenges of Enterprise User Experience Design
Consumer-faced UX design receives more appreciation, attention, and investment when compared to enterprise design. While there are many factors that contribute to this, the challenges that designing for enterprises pose to UX designers must be addressed. In this section, we will focus on the unique challenges of enterprise design.
Difficulty in conducting UX research: Since for enterprise solutions, the customers who purchase the solutions and users who use them are different, it creates a barrier for designers. Conducting UX research to better understand enterprise users is a hurdle as designers will be dealing with the executives (buyers) and not the actual users. And most times, the buyers aren’t very clear about the user needs, which leaves designers in a bind.
A shift in user context: The context in which enterprise solutions are used varies entirely from that of consumer solutions. Enterprise apps must be designed for better focus and more time commitment. Further, creating MVP is not beneficial for enterprise apps as achieving goals with half-implemented functionalities is not practical.
The right information density: Enterprise apps are rich in information. As a result, the screen designs may be packed and lead to cognitive load for users. But hiding information to simplify the user interface may create risks and confusion. It may lead to employees not being able to find important information quickly and cause disastrous results. So it’s very challenging for designers to find the optimum information density.
Tough testing conditions: Since enterprise solutions are often uniquely designed for specific organizations or domains, it is difficult to find dummy users to conduct testing. And when it comes to real users, they may be willing to perform usability tests and provide feedback, but reaching out to them and finding a free slot in their busy schedule is tough. And as mentioned before, most times, your customers won’t be the users, so it is a far-fetched possibility.
Conflict in opinion: Since stakeholders of different power levels are involved in creating an enterprise app, there are chances of conflicts in opinion. In such cases, the powerhouse stakeholders “win” even if their suggested features don’t suit the solution well. As a result, most users will have to deal with solutions that are irrelevant to them and do not meet their needs.
Consolidating legacy systems: Often, enterprise systems may be a merger of legacy systems. It isn’t easy to consolidate old systems into a new single system as the process is time consuming and complex. Starting fresh with a new system is impossible in concept as old systems cannot be completely ignored. Rather, they must be reconciled, mapped, and incorporated, which is a humongous task.
Things to Take Care in Enterprise UX Design
Whitney Quesenbery’s 5Es to Understand Users applies well in the context of enterprise user experience design. It gives a comprehensive approach towards taking care of usability requirements. She explores five dimensions of usability, denoting them as 5Es, which are:
- Effective – how accurately tasks are completed
- Efficient – how long is takes to complete tasks
- Easy to learn – how low is the initial learning curve
- Engaging – how satisfying is the app experience
- Error tolerant – how well does it prevent errors and assist in error recovery
Taking care of these 5Es while creating enterprise solutions is a great way to ensure a quality output, in general. Additionally, we have some more things to share with you, which we have accumulated from our experience working on enterprise solutions.
Enterprise products are often used by a large team of people. To provide everyone with the same input and keep them all on the same page about the usage of the product, documentation is vital. Otherwise, you will be required to provide constant demos or attend meetings to keep people updated.
The value of documentation increases with the complexity of the app. The more features it has and the more complex its flows, the more comprehensive the documentation should be. Moreover, documentation is a great way to keep the stakeholders updated about the progress during the design and development stage. It’s also helpful in giving a brief of the UX design services to them.
Ease of Access
In large enterprises, there may be several teams dispersed across various regions or offices working on different projects. It may create some challenges, such as inconsistency in design and functionality, non-compliance with guidelines, or conflicting brand image. Adopting an enterprise-wide design system can help to address these challenges.
A design system is a library of components that can be used by everyone in an enterprise. It includes patterns, themes, icons, tables, objects etc., that designers can access for their project. Thus, it helps to bring consistency in functionality and user experience. Further, it simplifies the design process by providing a predefined library of essential application elements.
Adherence to Enterprise Processes
Enterprises are bound by a set of unique processes. They may be concerning legal requirements, privacy or security requirements, internalization requirements, and such. As a part of adhering to these processes, designers have to implement some best practices or stick within certain checklists.
For example, to implement certain functionality, there may be a third party solution available. But you may not be able to use it because of the process regulations of that enterprise. Hence, this is a key consideration to take care while designing for enterprises.
Ease of Understanding
Efficiency is a primary concern for enterprise solutions, as we already saw. But often, to achieve this, a tradeoff is done, which may adversely affect the ease of understanding. For example, abbreviating labels is a useful approach and is among the most used dashboard design principles. It will give more screen space, but it compromises learnability. So, while designing enterprise apps, it is ideal to find a balance between efficiency and learnability.
One way to achieve this balance is hand-holding the user initially while using the solution. You can either provide a tour or give an overview of key information elements using arrows or some interactive approach. And, once the user is settled with the solution, they will not face any learnability issues during further uses.
Limited Use of Creativity
While designing for enterprise solutions, designers have to be extra careful with creativity. Enterprise solutions often do not promote offbeat innovations or radical ideas. It is not the ideal place to implement the latest UI UX design trends. This leaves designers in a dilemma as they have limited scope for experimenting with the designs.
Enterprise solutions are designed to assist employees in performing tasks, so creative approaches may turn out to be a distraction and not serve the real purpose.
We covered in the previous sections how in enterprise solutions, customers and users are different people. As UX designers, you may be dealing with the customers and not end-users. For the design team, this can be quite challenging for understanding user requirements and gathering feedback. This communication gap may create usability issues.
To take care of this, you can discuss with the customers to bring more clarity to the user’s needs. Factoring in the end-user opinions can benefit the customers equally well too. By convincing them of this, you may be able to achieve more end-user visibility.
Our Expertise in Enterprise UX Domain
At Aufait UX, we provide comprehensive enterprise design services. We carry out enterprise UX research, prototyping, and UI UX design. By implementing a holistic approach to our UI UX design process, we develop solutions that simplify the overall operations of enterprises. We have significant experience working on enterprise projects in different verticals such as healthcare and insurance. Our expertise in designing different types of enterprise systems like CRM, CMS and ERP have given us excellent insights into enterprise design.
Are you looking for an experienced UI UX design agency to create an enterprise solution for your organization? Then, we might be the right team for you! Get in touch with us, and let’s discuss your project.