If we were to rank the most common complains among users of business software solutions, the king of all annoyances would most likely be the lack of a seamless and rewarding user experience when working with those programs. Despite all the advances done in programming in the past 30 years, we cannot help but wonder how come that business software solutions still look and feel like the ones from the 90s, while all those other flashy social media tools are so addictive and easy to use.
It is true that B2C tools (and particularly those “fool proof” social media platforms) have set the end user experience bar quite high and business software solutions are not being able to meet those expectations: nowadays people expect that a expensive business software solution would at least work as well as all those free tools that they use daily. Furthermore, those tools (again, we are looking at you, social media) have caused a dramatic reduction of the users’ attention span and have made them really sensitive to the amount of bugs that they find acceptable (close to zero).
We know that to provide a good user experience nowadays all should work as if we had an army of programmers behind every step of our software, ready to respond to the slightest inconvenience of our users, but in business software that reality doesn’t sadly work.
So, what is the real problem with user experience in business software? Why does it suck so much and what can we do about it? We have put on our thinking hats, gathering all the knowledge from our own experience and our customers input, and distilled the essence of bad user experience simmering it down to four main bad habits: lack of mobile usability, need to simplify, absence of timely functions, and poor data quality.
Let’s go through each one of them a bit more in detail:
For the past 20 years there has been a constant talk about mobile business software solutions like, for instance, mobile CRM. And yet, mobile CRM is not here, even if some people will try to convince you otherwise. The truth is, only the small players are able to use or really create CRM mobile systems right now, and fully functioning, scalable business solutions are not yet available. However, business software providers should have understood by now that “mobile first” is a reality, a legit and tangible demand the users have been doing for years, and not just a buzzword. While other services like webstores are there already, and their user experience is designed taking into account more and foremost mobile users (after all, most of the online others are done via mobile – maybe some stats link here?), business software does once more not deliver to meet the expectations.
We have said it before: business software is simply too complicated. Among an extensive list of reasons why, the fact that business software solutions are not designed having the end users in mind but instead the managers and directors in charge of implementing those tools has a lot to do with it. Instead of usability, software is designed to produce the data that managers need (or the data they think they need and not what they might be actually needing) and to make them look better, while the real end users are simply left out. That is why we created SuperCards, a simpler, user-friendly software solution designed to maximize intuitiveness and functionality over looks.
In business, correct timing is essential. Obtaining lead conversions must be done at the exact time when the lead is hot: if you push the sale too early, the customer won’t be ready to act and there’s a risk to scare it away. If you postpone the sale for too long, the customer might turn to other providers of similar products. Timing matters and yet, business software does not usually enable time related functionalities or functions that would allow users to do something at the right time. And, when they do, it is usually via an email that forces the user to log in to the system and follow a complicated and annoying process, so users ignore the notification and miss the opportunity.
Data is one of the biggest assets for any modern corporation. In the past few years, corporations have been obsessed with gathering data from all possible sources, particularly their business software solutions. However, when it comes to the actual usage of that data, one of the biggest problems is that due to poor data quality the final users can not trust the data. This happens because the data model is overly complicated to fill in and the final users do not see any good reason to collect the data, so corporations end up with outdated or fragmented data, whose ownership is unclear. In addition, no one takes responsibility in checking that the data is correct, so it gets increasingly corrupted with time and this heavily affects the user experience quality.
As we have seen, business software as a long way to go as far as user experience is concerned. However, not all hope is gone. Small incremental changes can have a significant impact on the overall usability of the products, and while a whole industry change of mindset is needed (like starting to design business solutions with the end user in mind), there are some things that you can do as an end user or contractor yourself:
We will repeat it here, for the ones on the back: simplify. A simpler software is a software that works, that crashes less often, that serves a purpose, and that is more agreeable to use. Don’t be afraid to go all Marie Kondo with your business software.
Pretty much in line with the previous statement, try to keep your platforms as clean and simple as possible. For sure that new widget that includes cat gifs to your performance reports seems really cool but, do you really need it? Or is it just for you to amuse your investors or supervisor? We are sure they will be just as happy with your report without a cat being scared by a cucumber on it. Of course, the cat gif widget is overstating it, but you can probably think of some tools added to your software which are just as useful.
As we don’t force our workers to perform in areas that are not their expertise (or at least, we shouldn’t), we shouldn’t force some business processes to be done in one platform if the platform is not the right one for it. One-size-fits-all solutions are excellent in theory, but in practice they rarely perform well in any of the covered areas and their usability is often quite poor as a result of so many diverse tools being force to coexist under one programming logic. Using specific tools for specific needs might in fact reduce the complexity of the software and enhance the user experience, particularly if you can count on one overlapping tool which can transfer data from one program to another seamlessly, as Power Automate, Zapier, or SuperCards do.
By now it is clear that the current way of thinking and designing business software is not working. We needed to approach the whole process from a new perspective. Until now, we have tried to create, for instance, CRM systems as easy as possibly to use and with a lot of customization, and still we have fallen short with the user experience. This results on the users not using the software, because simply just logging in to a separate platform is too much, especially if the user does not know the purpose of it. That is why this “platform first” attitude is not the way to go. Instead, we need to identify the tools that people are already actually using because they really like to use them, and prioritize such tools as much as possible when building our business software solution.
It is true that there is a long way to go for achieving a seamless user experience in business software, and the current situation is caused by basic structural failures in the ideation and design processes. Complexity, lack of mobile integration and time related features, trying to fit every possible tool into one solution, and patching the software with an army of little robotic automations have created some sort of software version of the Frankenstein monster. They are alive, that’s for sure, but how they function it’s unfathomable.
Once again, simplicity is the key here. Keeping a clean, sleek software that does precisely what it’s needed from it, on a timely manner, and keeping the end user in mind at all times will be the best possible approach to finally take your business software user experience to the next level. As it has been attributed to the brilliant artist and engineer Leonardo Da Vinci to have said “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”.
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