There’s more to life than meets the UI

By Mervyn George on May 16, 2011

Simplification is the way forward. There are just too many great programs, websites, and apps out there to be wasting time on the bad ones. Computing devices have changed, business needs have changed but most important of all, users’ expectations have changed.

The mobile phone industry has introduced applications of all sorts to billions of people around the world. With advances in mobile and smart phone technologies come more knowledgeable consumers. We expect much more from a phone, as we do from any website we browse. The iPhone has taught me to love the design of a brilliant app, to thrive in functionality that makes me feel connected to the world. A few taps on the screen and I have just booked a flight, sold a couch, or connected with an old friend from school. Businesses need to adapt to the consumer and especially to the devices consumers use to interact with their business. If I like what a particular company offers, I like them even more if they have an app that works on my phone. It’s easier and it makes me wants to use it again and again.

Business circumstances have also evolved over time. More staff members now work from home or from remote locations. I have daily online meetings because my colleagues are scattered all over the world. Many suppliers and customers now have direct input into the day-to-day operations of a business. More input is required from a range of technical and non-technical people and IT departments strive to find a way for all of it to work effectively and to make sense. Online access and simplified means to gather and provide information are essential to ensuring that stakeholders are connected and capable of performing their functions in day-to-day processes.

The modern software user wants information immediately. Call centers and shared service centers add a delay to the data gathering process that many of us can’t afford to accommodate. By providing a range of self-service tasks, using custom-built online forms that simplify data enquiry and data update tasks; we can empower users to be the key drivers within a business. By encompassing a complex data maintenance process into an easy-to-use form, we make life easier for the user and can reduce elementary data errors. The introduction of simple, easy-to-implement online forms adds a new dimension to tailoring a UI for a specific target audience.

The billions of dollars invested in best of breed applications often sways IT teams to forget the importance of usability. I used to think that new dimension systems like SAP CRM were introducing cutting-edge front-ends; especially when compared to veteran UIs contained in ECC and R/3 systems. While some significant advances have been made, there are still tools that can do it better. This may not be the case for the entire set of SAP transaction codes and screens, but they certainly can alleviate the frustration in some of the more common and critical tasks.

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