Salesforce UX - the Portion of Your App You Shouldn't Neglect
I have the distinct pleasure of being able to interact with a large number of customers within the Salesforce space and specifically talk through their UI and UX challenges that they’ve got. I figured I’d share a little about common discussions that I have with these companies in hopes that it will help someone else who is in the hunt to solve these same kinds of problems. Many times companies come to us with their “unique” situation that they’ve gotten themselves into but typically the solution to many of the problems within the Salesforce discussions boil down to how the UX should be or what it isn’t doing today. This leads to a very commonly misaligned train of thought: UI and UX are the same thing.
Before we begin to talk about the differences between UIs and UX we should probably set the stage for what a UX even is. User Experience – UX – is all about how the user’s interactions, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors in your application; in this blog, we will focus in on the Salesforce platform. As you read through that statement it is easy to understand why people would equate a UI, user interface, to how the UX is. Good UI = Good UX, right? Not necessarily. They are different and they are both tremendously important to the successful adoption and implementation of your internal, or external, applications.
How Is the UI and the UX Different?
UX encompasses the overall effectiveness of your application's ability to keep your users attention, provide an intuitive interface, make them more productive, and reduce their stress when interacting with a system. Naturally, this means that the UI will be a large factor in how effective the overall UX really is. However, it should be noted that there are other factors that play into the overall UX besides the cosmetic look of the application. How well your application performs while being used or how effective the user is able to gather the appropriate data are contributing factors to your UX. Remember when the Healthcare.gov website launched? That is a prime target for what a bad UX looks like. The UI was fine, but the functional, performance and data gathering aspects were all a complete disaster. For now, let’s focus on how UI and UX are similar yet different.
Creating a great UX is all about the combination of functionality and design. Let’s begin with the design aspects. The design of applications should be intuitive and clean. If the user is able to figure out how to perform the task they want to without asking for instructions then you are moving in the right direction. Think about mobile applications today. Almost all of them have the 3 bar menu drawer that sits at the header of the application. It is intuitive for us to click that button when we want to see the settings or get to additional options. No one had to provide a handbook for you to figure that out when you downloaded the app. When trends like this take place across applications it is a safe bet that they exist for a reason. Intuitive design can be one of the initial make-or-break points for the application. If users get frustrated because they cannot figure out how to get their task done or where to go to begin the process then you’ve killed that UX. Keep the UI simple, clean, and easy to understand. You can read the following blog post if you want a deeper understanding of just the UI aspects:
Coming in closely behind the UI is how functional it is for the user. Does the UI provide them all of the data accessibility that is needed? Does the UI provide a way to streamline their data entry? Does the UI provide intuitive ways for the user to complete their tasks? Does the UI speed up the time to completion of a task or does it slow it down? All of these questions are things you should ask yourself when designing the application from the beginning. Remember, UX is all about design AND function. If you give your users a Ferrari but leave off the tires they will still drive their Hondas around. If you ever have run into that horribly frustrating problem of finishing the new application only to find out that the user adoption of it is sub-par then chances are you are facing a UX problem. Here is a great image of how UI and UX are related to each other.
What Makes a Good UX?
Here are a few common themes amongst applications that provide a good UX. You probably can find others, but I’ve found these to be the most prolific:
Easy to understand
Simple to navigate
Makes people more productive
Provides consolidated views to all necessary data
Users enjoy entering data into or viewing data in the application
Since we are focusing this in on the Salesforce community we can put this in perspectives that are commonly experienced. A great example of a clean UI, but sub-par UX is how Salesforce handles Related Lists. Are Related Lists easy to find and clean looking? Yes, they are. Do they cause a tremendous amount of frustration? They sure do. A simple way to improve this is by leveraging Visualforce to provide an enhanced experience for the user. By leveraging Visualforce in this example you could provide the user with a simple and clean looking table of data while allowing the user to Mass Edit, Mass Delete, Mass Create, In-Line Edit, dynamically search the tables, etc. for all of the Related List. By improving the overall interaction with that portion of the Salesforce environment you are creating a better UX. Salesforce is making an attempt to help improve the overall UX of their UIs as time passes, but the reality is that there is currently and will continue to be (even with Salesforce Lightning) coding that is necessary to create that ultimate UX you desire.
Another area in the Salesforce world that has a clean UI but causes UX problems is the fact that you cannot modify records across objects at the same time, even if the data is related to each other. This can lead to users becoming frustrated with the increasing number of tabs or pages they have to open to perform trivial tasks. To re-iterate, your UX should empower the user to do their tasks or jobs more effectively. Use this as a guideline.
How Does TerraSky Fit Into All of This?
TerraSky offers a platform called SkyVisualEditor that is the world’s #1 platform for creating a better Salesforce UI and better Salesforce UX, just ask any of the 500,000+ users that experience our work every day. How do we help with that stuff? SkyVisualEditor provides a drag and drop environment where you can set up and layout the Salesforce pages in that clean and intuitive way you have always wanted. Want to organize your data in tabs? No problem. How about having more than two columns of data? No problem. Not only can SkyVisualEditor create a better UI for your team, but we also provide additional functionality to help improve that overall UX.
Remember when I said that you could improve that Related List situation with Visualforce? That is just one small example of how SkyVisualEditor can help improve the UX of your pages. Being able to modify records across objects on a single screen is another common practice when creating pages with our platform. Providing your Salesforce users with a system that they love to work with because it is simple, easy to use, and speeds up their already highly effective work is exactly what our platform is all about. If you haven’t had a chance to try it out for yourself you can find it on the Salesforce AppExchange along with our 2-week free trial.