Digital Strategy

5 Enterprise Application UX Rules for Increasing User Productivity

— These UX rules can make significant gains in workforce productivity.

Posted: March 22, 2017

Despite the powerful features behind enterprise applications, many fail to enhance worker productivity. Most IT personnel and end-users agree that business software is generally way too complex. Clunky interfaces, a lack of mobile friendliness and poor navigation all make applications difficult to work with.

Enterprise applications offer powerful functions, but those capabilities mean nothing if your employees can't use them effectively. While UX will vary based on who's using the application and the functions it carries out, there are five user experience rules all developers should follow when creating enterprise applications.

1. Test the UX

UX testing should occur apart from development and consist of end-user interviews and semi-moderated usability assessments. Semi-moderated tests consist of end-users completing specific tasks in front of analysts who note how long it takes participants to achieve objectives. Gaby Kenyon, one of our own UX analysts, said testing how end-users interact with an application is one of the best ways to confirm whether the system increases productivity.

"Testing with actual users really informs the UX design process," said Kenyon. "Whether through a beta program or an early-release cycle, you want the people using your application to try it out before you release it to production.”

2. Maintain consistency

Take a look at the application's human interface objects - items such as folders, documents, buttons, menus and so forth. Do these objects accurately reflect their corresponding actions? For example, if a user selects a button that looks like a trash can, will that button delete whatever it is he or she is working on or do something different?

You want to ensure feature representation is consistent throughout the application. A "Send to" button should look the same across all the tools within the application. In addition, the software should adhere to common sense rules that are generally accepted among users. For example, you don't press a slider, you drag it.

3. Guide multi-step processes

Amazon, Kohl's and other e-commerce websites all track your progress during the checkout process. The same idea is also applicable to enterprise applications, especially in cases where professionals have to execute complex tasks to finish projects. For example, in the hospital revenue cycle process, administrators need to execute the following steps:

  1. Schedule appointment
  2. Aggregate collections from care providers
  3. Review service utilization
  4. Capture charges and file appropriate codes
  5. Submit claims to third parties
  6. Process remittances (if necessary)
  7. Make payment posts

In this situation, the application UX should track the progress of each case, informing all personnel which stage in the process is active and what administrators need to do to move to the next part of the process.

4. Develop clear, informative and accessible documentation

Your application should contain a well-organized documentation section that instructs users on how to execute specific functions. This area should categorize the documentation to support its navigability and deliver a search function that directs users to specific pages. As for the documentation itself, explanations of how to perform specific tasks should be succinct to limit user confusion and improve efficiency.

"Good search functions and documentation should help new workers figure out how to use the software with as little instruction as possible," said Kenyon.

Another important point: Make sure documentation is accessible in-process. It's cumbersome for users to click back and forth between documentation and the corresponding tools. Allow instructions and the interface to show up side-by-side.

5. Ensure task flows parallel end-user processes

This is arguably the most important rule for UX professionals. All too often, enterprise software forces specific processes on your end-users, even if those procedures don't align with their workflow.

There are cases when business analysts may find a more efficient way of doing something. For instance, if an accountant in a post-acute care facility needs to follow seven steps to submit claims to payers, and a developer automates four of those steps by introducing a clever function, that function should be integrated into the build. However, your UX testers should see how accountants interact with that function while the application's still in beta to ensure the function does what its intended in practice.

Of course, there are more UX rules your development teams need to follow, but these five should be top of mind. Want to know whether your application adheres to UX best practices? Use our free evaluation tool to find out.