Software users in the consumer market have come to expect what is referred to as the “consumer-grade user experience.” It usually goes something like this: a consumer downloads an app from an app store and if it doesn’t meet their needs, they delete it and move on to the next one. Consumers expect the app to get them started quickly through an inviting and straightforward introductory experience. They do not attend training or read manuals and use applications by choice, not because they are required to do so.
Generally speaking, the traditional enterprise user experience is the antithesis of the consumer-grade user experience. Many enterprise applications were not designed with simplicity, clarity, and ease-of-use in mind. Some were not even designed to scale according to the demands of today’s enterprises.
Enterprise applications often rely on their users to be highly skilled, having undergone extensive training and earning certifications just to use them effectively. There are “quick start” guides that are anything but quick, voluminous release notes and manuals describing every nuance of an application’s expected and unexpected behaviors.
Users of enterprise applications begrudgingly use them out of duty, not desire. A consumer-grade user experience for the enterprise is the delivery of applications to the enterprise market with enterprise capabilities and a consumer-grade user experience. Such solutions provide a competitive advantage, a strong buying preference, and a loyal customer base.
The ideal consumer-grade user experience needs to have the following five characteristics. Without all of these, it would be difficult for an application to be considered consumer grade:
- Simple – Mobile applications have proven simple designs can be powerful. Consumer-grade experiences present aggregated information and actions necessary for the given task along with appropriate navigation to details. Consumer-grade applications do not overload the user by expecting them to find the salient information among troves of data.
- Visually appealing – This is critical for a consumer-grade user experience. Users are more relaxed, comfortable, confident, and capable when using a product that has pleasing aesthetics.
- Naturally intuitive – Users quickly recognize familiar patterns and become immediately successful if they’ve encountered a pattern previously. Enabling users to transfer their knowledge from other applications decreases cognitive load and increases confidence.
- Responsive – User mobility demands applications work on any screen ranging from phone, to tablet, to desktop, to big screen. Responsive applications are composed of responsive components, layouts, and patterns which operate naturally on any device at any screen size. Consumer-grade applications do not rely on zooming and panning for readability and navigation.
- Accessible – All users, including those with disabilities, should have a pleasing experience.
In addition to the above application characteristics, a solution’s user experience extends beyond an application’s user interface. The out-of-box ceremony, physical deployment, installation, registration, upgrade process, security, support, and end-of-life cycle are all critically important to delivering a consumer-grade user experience for the enterprise.
Enterprise users deserve a great experience; the type of experience they’ve now come to expect from applications they use every day outside their jobs. The modern Web, social media, and mobile platforms have changed their expectations.