Why Delightful User Experience is the Key to Unlocking Business App Acceptance - Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay User experience expert Matt Malden says in even the most complex B2B application, there’s no need for clunky UX that deters user adoption.

According to technology industry analyst and Intelligent automation specialist Sarah Burnett (2022), the autonomous enterprise is one that conducts its core daily business functions in a digital and automated manner with minimum human touchpoints, with AI embedded in many of its systems.

Suppose she’s right, and we are entering the autonomous enterprise era. An era where companies are looking to introduce self-serve technologies to replace outdated, inefficient business processes. In that case, we won’t get there without great IT system usability.

After all, enterprise software shouldn’t require extensive training, a great deal of concentration, and extensive agility to navigate. I’d go as far as to say that the enterprise software industry has a responsibility to do a lot better in this area.

But the average business app is far from user-friendly. They are often Intimidating, and this is despite the fact that in 2023 there’s absolutely no fundamental reason business software should be inherently difficult to use or visually off-putting. Even processes for high-value, complex transactions can be simplified, but this doesn’t entail merely changing the font or adding a few colors.

It’s also vital to get UX right as in the autonomous capitalism era, it’s going to be critical for businesses to prioritize the user experience of the software you’re asking them to work with, as the ability to quickly and easily self-serve directly impacts employee productivity and overall satisfaction. There’s also a good economic argument that factors into this: according to Robert Pressman, for every dollar spent to resolve a problem during product design, $10 would be spent on the same problem during development, and increase that to $100 or more if the problem had to be solved after the product’s release. That’s to say, every dollar invested in UX returns $10 to $100, and correcting the problem from the start is the most cost-effective.

More than ‘consumerizing’

It’s crucial that we prioritize this issue, especially in the B2B space, where we are falling behind. I have spent years working to optimize software interfaces for optimal user experience. I understand that the “consumerization” of enterprise apps is not as straightforward as just mimicking mobile app aesthetics or transplanting B2C UX ideas into the B2B domain. Business apps must always include a well-designed interaction framework, unwavering consistency, and clear intuitiveness to drive the highest levels of user-friendliness. Only by taking these factors into consideration can we achieve the highest levels of user-friendliness.

Achieving this entails interface designers deeply understanding the mental model that users bring to the application, namely an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world. Without this comprehension, designers will struggle to grasp what the user is trying to achieve and how the software communicates that information within the user’s pre-existing mental model. This is a critical aspect of UX that must not be overlooked in today’s technological landscape. Achieving optimal user-friendliness in business applications requires designers to have a keen awareness of users’ mental models and to design interfaces that align with them seamlessly.

During my time at DocuSign, I witnessed firsthand how small design changes can significantly impact user experience. We discovered that users were experiencing friction when receiving emails with a “call to action” button that read “Sign”. Through extensive user testing, we found that users interpreted this button as a full commitment to a legal agreement, even though they had not yet viewed the document. This led to a natural resistance.

Applying the same lesson, to deliver excellent B2B UX and enable employees to self-serve with confidence, it’s crucial to appreciate the importance of designing for the domain space and understanding users’ mental models. This is how users perceive and interpret actions within an application to make informed design decisions that positively impact user experience.

Three types of ‘load’

In B2B applications, we need to prioritize and progressively disclose functionality or risk inundating the user with too much information or too many choices. Users often have specific tasks that they need to accomplish regularly. They may also have occasional or more complex tasks that require additional steps. Structuring the functionality to accommodate both primary and secondary use cases is crucial for achieving good user experience.

UX veterans know it is important to pay a lot of attention to cognitive, visual, and motor load when designing great experiences.

Cognitive Load

The “Cognitive” load is the first of three load types we must consider. It refers to the mental effort required to interpret and use a software application. If an application requires too much cognitive load, it can lead to confusion and frustration, where the user feels overwhelmed. It is, therefore, important to minimize the cognitive load by simplifying interfaces and eliminating unnecessary steps.

Visual Load

“Visual” load, on the other hand, refers to the amount of visual information presented to the user that they need to process. Clearly, a cluttered interface with too many elements can be overwhelming and make it difficult for the user to find what they need.

Motor Load

Finally, “motor” load refers to the physical effort required to use a software application. A good UX designer works to minimize motor load by designing interfaces that are easy to navigate and which can be used with minimal physical effort. You can’t really ask regular users to repeatedly click on tiny things on the screen and use extensive hand and wrist movement, for instance.

Make 2023 the year for user friendliness

It’s time for enterprise software to prioritize user-friendliness in 2023. Business users rely on software applications for extended periods. These applications should be enjoyable and even empowering, aiding in the creation of the autonomous enterprise that has become the optimal organizational model of today.

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