In digital marketing and e-commerce, the importance of user experience (or UX for short) was understood early on. This is no surprise: A well thought-out graphical user interface and high ease of use of an online shop are immediately reflected in the figures – in sales, in downloads of information material or whatever you may define as measurable success parameters.
In the software sector, however, UX often still plays only a minor role. For a long time, software developers, in the early years, considered user experience more as a "feel-good factor", a superfluous "bling-bling" and a necessary evil to control the functions of a software. The magic – so the assumption – lay in what happened in the background and not in what the user sees.
This is particularly true for enterprise software, the branch of software with which companies control their mission critical processes – ERP, CRM, workflow systems, document management solutions and much more. An MIS such as Keyline also belongs in this category (we always struggle to describe Keyline as a management information system, since it goes far beyond that as an application for the holistic control of printing companies – but that is too much at this point).
But why does the user experience play an increasingly important role nowadays – and why do we believe that a good user interface not only increases productivity, but is also a decisive success factor for the further development of companies?
Productivity increases, training effort reduces
When developing Keyline, we have paid attention to a self-explanatory and clean user interface from day one – and have produced a system that is clear and concise.
Some time ago, the consulting firm Deloitte published the success figures of an ERP project at one of its customers. By taking user experience principles into account, the team's productivity was increased by 300 percent and training efforts were reduced by 55 percent.
Deloitte explained that, "Ease of use drives adoption, and user adoption is an important first step in unlocking the value of investments in enterprise systems. In other words, if employees are overwhelmed or frustrated by the use of bad software, the bottom line is negative.
Enterprise software is a major UX challenge
Nevertheless, enterprise applications are still over complicated in terms of the user experience. Employees often have to deal with overloaded and complex user interfaces and are often forced to find "work arounds" to do their job.
According to a study by market research company Forrester, 75 percent of employees have difficulty accessing information in their business systems and applications, and 62 percent have to rely on others to access corporate data.
We have to admit that the development of usability concepts for enterprise software is a big challenge for UX designers – after all, it's mostly about large amounts and a wide variety of different data as well as complex processes that have to be prepared in the right form at the right time.
Internet giants as a blueprint
The design of a user interface (also called "frontend") goes far beyond the beautiful arrangement of data, buttons and text. It is always important to consider how the users will work with the software, in which situation they will be and what their needs and requirements will be at that moment.
Software developers can learn from the large consumer-oriented Internet sites: A good UX is decisive for the success or failure of these platforms. And why shouldn't employees find the same concepts in the software at their workplace as they do at home on the couch navigating Facebook, Google & Co? We remember: Acceptance brings a yield!
Why is a good UX so difficult to achieve?
Many enterprise applications tend to hinder rather than support the smooth work of employees. One reason for this is the tendency of many developers to jam-pack the application with as much functionality as possible. A lot helps a lot, or not? Traditional software houses tend to turn their solutions into a 'jack of all trade' to be able to meet all requirements. But that's exactly what usually leads to hard-to-handle and inflexible software colossuses, which are also hard to maintain.
We go a different way. We often say "no", we critically scrutinise customer wishes and always have the big picture in mind. What effect does a change have here and there, are there ways to simplify the entire process?
Through these considerations and focusing on a well thought-out user interface, Keyline manages to be slim, sexy and yet powerful. Tasks that go beyond Keyline's core business are outsourced to specialised software solutions via open interfaces but Keyline is always in control and knows what's going on.
Of course, the systems must be able to communicate with each other – but thanks to the support of open technology standards, this is uncomplicated and state-of-the-art. In addition, we are offering more and more applications as ready-to-use apps that can be integrated with just a few mouse clicks – just visit our AppStore.
We've got UX in our blood
At Keyline we are convinced that good software helps companies and their employees grow and succeed by acting as a digital mentor in the background. The software should be ubiquitous, preferably without being noticed. Thanks to well thought-out, simple usage concepts, it must be immediately accessible – that is and always will be a cornerstone of our product philosophy.
A statement by Wolfgang Bangert, Managing Director of Bechtel Druckmanufaktur near Stuttgart (Germany), shows that we are on the right track: "We got a Keyline online training one morning and were able to calculate a brochure without any support the same day.“