By Martin Cheng
In my career as a product manager for both enterprise and consumer applications, I am sometimes asked why I focus on the user experience of enterprise applications. The gist of the argument is that enterprise applications are mandated by the company and users are required to use the app regardless of how it works.
While this may have been the case 10 to 15 years ago, the growth of startups such as Slack, Asana and Box.net have shown that having a modern, fun and easy-to-use experience will drive grassroots growth and demand from employees. In addition, as we spend more and more time on our mobile devices, the user experience of the apps that we download is a crucial deciding factor of whether or not we use the app.
Consumer Apps Set the Standard
Teens and busy professionals alike are constantly connected to their mobile devices. eMarketer estimates that U.S. adults spend over three hours a day using a mobile device this year. In addition, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of smart, fun and useful consumer apps in the app stores. These apps set the standard, even for the enterprise, as employees come to expect that mobile apps for the workplace be as equally compelling as Facebook, Uber and WhatsApp.
Executives overwhelmingly agree on the importance of mobile apps as a gateway to the value of digital technologies and to a company’s ability to become a digital business. According to Forrester, 85% of executives view mobile apps as the dominant interface of the future.
The vast number of available mobile apps has trained users to form strong opinions very quickly. Industry studies show that nearly one in four users abandon a mobile app after the first try! Even when workplace technology is mandated by an employer, employees often resist if the user experience is lacking. Good user experience (UX) is the crux of the issue, to ensure user adoption and its related value. But what are the three tenants of good UX for mobile apps?
- Simple — Make it easy and fun to interact: Simplicity and agility are key, especially within apps for the workplace that deal with lots of data and complex relationships. People must be able to understand how to complete a task easily and see the value that the app will give them at a glance. The UX should have clean screens, playful animations and smooth transitions to make the app feel polished, impactful and enjoyable to use. Why is this important? For the HR area of the business, studies have shown that there is 60% increased workforce productivity by conducting HR activities on smartphones.
- Focused — Ensure the data and use cases are designed for the small screen: Even if an app is highly usable, if it doesn’t provide real value, it will be deleted or buried on the second or third home screen of the device. When evaluating features and ideas for mobile, my first questions are: “What benefits will a user receive by using this or performing this action?” and “What are the key pieces of data that the user needs to see on this screen?”. The answers help to decide whether or not to include the task, to better hone the user experience to the most essential for the mobile screen. Simplicity in design is as much about saying “no” as it is about creativity.
- Relevant — Anticipate needs: Through good design, integration with the device and (more and more these days) machine learning, the app must provide a personalized experience to the user. Examples of how a mobile app can bring information to the user include: providing a simple list of to-dos, using the availability of mail, calendar and location of the device, and anticipating who they may be interested in looking up in the corporate directory. This relevance provides the “stickiness” and benefit that will help make the app an indispensable component to the employee’s workday.
Flexible work arrangements are making companies re-think how they do business and helping them to run more effectively. To be agile and competitive in the digital era, employees need real-time access to information from wherever they might be – in-between meetings, commuting to work or on a factory floor. Mobile apps that provide direct access to HCM solutions help employees engage with HR processes and complete tasks. Enabling leaders and staff to easily conduct HR processes from any device can have major business impact including driving company efficiencies and elevating performance culture.