The User Experience of Business Software Must Include the Information Experience
The advent of handheld devices and universal internet access has accelerated the demand for user-friendly applications that exploit the capability of these devices to deliver rich user experiences. Indeed, the software development community has evolved to adapt and support the demands for rapid application development with Agile Development methodologies. In addition, the software development community conveniently divides itself into those who specialize in user interface and user experience (aka UI/UX) and those who specialize in information processing. Customers often get more than they asked for with video and graphically rich user interfaces enabling functionality they never even imagined. Sometimes, the customer begins to use the system in support of their business only to discover something important is missing - information.
It’s easy to see how this happens. A meeting with the software developer begins with a brief discovery, or white-boarding, session. The main purpose of this session is to describe and chart the desired functionality. Following this session is a quick design process that maps out the user experiences for all of the people that may access the system. These may include customers, administrators, support personnel and more. Then the development team launches into a sprint designed to deliver something useful in less than two weeks. Successive sprints drive the development closer and closer to the final product or until the customer’s entire budget is consumed.
The customer is engaged throughout the process, including a hands-on evaluation of the resulting product of each sprint cycle. In this way, the development team and the customer are both convinced that the project is headed in the right direction. The specialists in user interface and user experience (UI/UX) design often lead this effort to assure that the resulting product works as expected and that it is visually appealing to the customer.
Occasionally, the crucial functions of information management and information access take a back seat to the user experience. The development team that creates the new awesome user experience is often not technically equipped to plan and deliver as effective an information management experience to match its prowess in user experience management. Clicking or tapping icons on the screen to launch an amazing array of functionality is meaningless if the critical business information to support the action is missing.
Too many projects discover this gap at the end of the development cycle, when the customer’s budget has been consumed and the UI/UX team has completed its work. The user has acquired a beautiful piece of software and now has to find another software development company to retrieve and integrate the information. A little foresight and planning up front by both parties recognizes that the information is probably the most important element of the system. Discovery and design processes should begin with the information that the key users need and then add the experience of each to the process of assuring the delivery and access to the information.
Of course, the interface must be intuitive, friendly, graphical and an expression of the company’s brand. However, it must do those things in order to enable the business to operate more effectively, to support growth and to deliver information to facilitate decision-making. Let’s add the information experience (let’s call it IX) to the equation so that UI/UX becomes UI/UX/IX. Without that, the user experience of a business application is incomplete.