Whether working on a big or small project, software development teams always seem to have their hands full. Too often, this means some tasks, such as designing the application user interface (UI) or optimizing the overall user experience (UX), end up near the bottom of the priorities list.
“That is unfortunate,” says Paul Modderman, a senior product architect and technology evangelist at Mindset Consulting. “Even when users forget the details of their experience with an application, they almost certainly remember how it made them feel,” he says. “UX design can create delight in a person and in everything he or she feels when engaged with your technology. That is real impact.”
Modderman believes that good UX design is particularly important for organizations that are pursuing digital transformation and competing in the digital economy. He advises clients to add usability architects and graphic designers to their development efforts. These experts know how to empathize with end users and create the intuitive and inviting UX applications need to succeed with internal users and external customers.
“Empathy in design has 1,000 times the impact of rigorously bulletproof code,” says Modderman.
Applying psychology to create an effective user experience
User experience experts know that designing an effective application user interface and creating an overall delightful user experience for business solutions is a complex task. They need to get inside the user’s head and understand his or her thought process when interacting with an application. Often, they use field studies, task analyses, and prototyping sessions to capture data and build conceptual frameworks for determining how the user is interacting with the application. However, beyond this important foundational work, it is important to actively involve the actual end user—for example, in design thinking workshops to ensure a high grade of user acceptance and adoption.
“People are buying emotions and not only functionality or even code,” says Thorsten Leiduck, global VP, SAP Cloud Platform Ecosystem at SAP. “For example, customers will enjoy spending more time browsing and shopping products on a retail site with intuitive navigation and an appealing user experience. If a business application simplifies a specific process and makes work tasks easier to complete, employees will become more effective, while gaining a higher level of satisfaction with their work.”
A user-centric design approach also helps the development team by providing timely feedback on how well the application is meeting key metrics, including accessibility, efficiency, and usability goals. These insights can highlight instances where saving one click or streamlining screens might potentially be counterproductive to the more important objective of maintaining a positive user experience.
Preparing for a new type of UI
Application development teams need to become accustomed to working with UI experts because UI design is evolving. The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and its incorporation into voice-controlled virtual assistants is about to move beyond novelty and take center stage as the main technology for interacting with applications.
“The sophistication of AI is increasing,” says Dirk Neumann, founder and CEO of Brisken LLC, which focuses on implementing data-driven solutions for SAP Cloud Platform. “And it is occurring much more quickly than a lot of people think. It is just a matter of time before virtual assistants are integrated with computers and applications, and everything is interconnected. AI engines and huge databases will run the back end.”
Application development, especially in the enterprise world, will take on new levels of complexity when graphical UI are replaced by chat-based interactions and conversational interfaces. Managing processing demands will be an issue as users interact with complex applications in real time.
“It is important for companies to put the right infrastructure and organization in place before embarking on their digital transformation journey, for example, with projects in the AI or machine learning area,” Leiduck says. “To really benefit from agile development and innovation techniques, customers need to empower their project leads to enable fast decision-making and prompt budget allocation. This way, all team members will be able to execute effectively each iterative step of the design and solution evolution lifecycle.”
IT departments will need to venture outside their traditional comfort zones to improve current UIs and prepare for the routine use of increasingly complex conversational UIs. Accelerating these changes will aid the process of digital transformation and allow organizations to focus on the significant challenges of competing in the evolving digital economy.
Want to learn more? Listen to the SAPRadio show: “AppDev: UI Excellence and Your Digital Transformation.” And check @SAPPartnerBuild on Twitter.