We live in a society of fast-paced digitally connected people with low attention spans. This causes people to get frustrated when things don’t operate as they expect. How does this relate to the world of business? Employees and entrepreneurs have systems that are put in place to help them be more efficient in their daily work or tasks. The challenge is that most systems do not keep their user interface (UI) up to the standards of the consumer as time passes.
The UI of any system must be appropriately designed for the era that the system is in. At one point in time, green screen terminals were the way to go, but those types of UIs are now far outdated. The same is true for what we design today; in 10 years it will be a relic. The mark of a good UI is that a user doesn’t need to ask or look for help to understand what is taking place. Because our expectations change as new gadgets and technologies emerge this holy grail of a UI is a moving target. Let’s break this down into basic components to try to understand the foundations of creating engaging interfaces throughout the ages.
What matters when it comes to a system that users operate?
We will look at this from the perspective of companies who use the Salesforce platform as this is a large pillar in theSaaS business community. There are 3 major portions of any system from a user perspective and they all affect the overall satisfaction.
We have addressed the 3rd portion, information accuracy, in previous blog posts in regards to data quality and data governance, so I won’t touch on this topic today. It should be noted that even if you design the best system ever to exist if the users cannot trust the data that exists within the application then the adoption of that system will be poor.
Since we are discussing the topic of UIs in regards to Salesforce we will not need to cover the first portion – system operations. One of the greatest benefits of using Salesforce as a business platform is that they handle all of the backend system operations and allow your IT to focus on other things. This brings us to our focal point – User Interface. The quality of your UIs, even in Salesforce, may not seem like they can matter that much but the ramifications of maintaining poorly designed systems can be quite large. The sad truth is that most companies view the UI design as an optional portion of an application. What many executives fail to understand is that a system must provide engaging interactions between the users and the backend tasks the system is performing. Ultimately the system should provide enough intuitive and easy-to-use methods of interaction so that the users will be motivated to actually use the platform.
People don’t like change, but people also don’t like being frustrated by unnecessary redundant tasks or confusing methods of interaction. If you are experiencing a system adoption problem then chances are that it has to do with the new system being less effective than the old system the user had. The value of an application is in the eye of the beholder and in this case that is the end-user. If we can create UIs that can help them do their jobs better while reducing the frustrations they have with the system of choice then we can improve the overall user satisfaction and loyalty to said system.
At Dreamforce 2014 TerraSky conducted a survey on companies that had 500+ employees. Of those companies surveyed 35% of the staff said that the #1 detriment to the adoption of new applications created on the Salesforce platform is directly linked to difficulty entering data or difficulty finding relevant data. It isn’t that the data cannot be entered or found in Salesforce, it has everything to do with the simplicity at which the user can enter and find the data.
Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So How Is This Solved?
Well, there are a number of things you can do to solve the problem of UI design but almost every scenario involved developing a custom interface to fix the situation. What TerraSky aims to do with our product, SkyVisualEditor, is to empower companies to create all of the rich, engaging, and sophisticated interfaces that the users are asking for.
As of November of 2014 more than 175,000 Visualforce pages have been created by our customers. These pages are being utilized by more than 500,000 employees on the Salesforce platform worldwide. You may be thinking that all of this talk on UI design is great, but what is the real benefit of streamlining the UIs within Salesforce? On average the companies that utilize SkyVisualEditor to help redesign their UIs have seen 70% reductions in the time it takes to create a new UI within Salesforce. This means that your IT and operations staff can focus their time on other projects or address the needs of the user significantly faster than before. Sometimes your users are actually customers that you are exposing your Salesforce data to. By utilizing SkyVisualEditor we have customers who have been able to completely overhaul their case management methodology with their customers when using Salesforce Communities. The business impacts are customers who are satisfied with the visibility into the resolution of their cases which leads to the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry.
Other customers have been able to see reductions in the time it takes to have formal approvals submitted by over 50%. Many of our customers have physical documents that must be managed as part of their business process. By using SkyVisualEditor these customers have been able to maintain government compliance while digitizing the full life cycle of managing the documents. Not only have their documents been digitized they were able to complete these tasks between 65-75% faster than they have scoped when trying to manually recreate them.
Our customer base is seeing drastic improvements to their business metrics by embracing the concept of high UI standards. TerraSky will continue to push the envelope in what is possible with UI tools. The real question is what kind of gains or losses are you experiencing with your current UI setup? If you don’t know that answer then you will have missed out on an opportunity to improve your existing business metrics without much effort. My recommendation would be to do your due diligence to find out that missing piece of information and to create a game plan to resolve that gap. A great place to start is by simply asking your users what frustrates them most about the existing application or system. You’d be surprised how large the list can be.