Understanding Complex Applications and Designing them Effectively

Modern-day brands have realized the need to leverage mobile channels to innovate and attract more users. However, that is not enough. Businesses need to design and develop complex mobile apps with simple yet effective UI that delivers a seamless user experience. In addition, UX designers need to consider the critical UX components of complex applications that consume more resources than typical applications.

Overview of complex applications 

A complex application is any application supporting broad, unstructured goals or nonlinear workflows. It allows users to accomplish overall and structured objectives and is designed for specialized domains. A specialized domain is a field that needs immense and technological expertise. In simple words, working in such a domain requires recursive and precise decision-making. On the contrary, general apps help users to execute linear tasks structured on well-defined objectives. 

How do complex apps differ from general apps?

Complex apps often deal with accomplishing nonlinear objectives without a pre-defined workflow for task completion by trained experts. For instance, an engineer has to analyze the reason behind high spikes in bandwidth usage. On the contrary, general applications usually rely on linear and discrete tasks for pre-defined objectives. 

Features of complex apps

You can make the UX design of a complex app more engaging with these features.

  • Complex apps support the needs of well-trained users who have expertise in specific domains.
  • They help in solving specific and more complex problems that vary based on the defined workflows. 
  • Complex apps allow users to manage and navigate large data sets using Analytics to aid better decision-making.
  • Complex apps apply system intelligence to mitigate risks when high-impact or high-value tasks are performed. 
  • Complex apps integrate easily with existing systems and communicate seamlessly with existing enterprise tools and platforms. 

Types of complex application users 

Designers cannot change application workflows to be less complex. What complex app users need to do is difficult for designers to understand, especially all the users' nuances. But, what designers can do is make the applications look less complicated for the different user groups. Different complex application users have their distinctions designers need to target them differently based on each scenario. These users include:

  • Learners 
  • Legacy users 
  • Power users 

When the context is about learners trying to access the complex app, the designers should simplify learnability and streamline the UX. The app should be easy to use for learners. For legends, otherwise known as power users, the app must be designed as efficiently as possible to make working easy and productive. This typically involves task automation and workspace customization. For legacy users, designers should integrate the app with good design elements and communicate its value. Legacy users often navigate bad experiences or are taught how to do something incorrectly rather than efficiently. Designers need to communicate the value of their design decisions to legacy users and ensure they have a good experience.

Importance of learnability for complex apps

UX designers can reduce the learning time of complex apps for users by promoting learnability and through user training using these methods. 

Spatial predictability: This method helps create more learnable interfaces and orient users within the app. If the location of common functionality changes between different pages, it can cause issues. Designers have to allow users to explore the application safely. There's a paradox where people are motivated to start using apps rather than learning about them or setting up parameters.

Discoverability: Discoverability fuels self-exploration. Designers need to uncover complex functionalities to users progressively. After learning the initial toolset, users will understand doing things and can improvise to do it faster.

Visual salience: Visual salience is integral to discoverability. For instance, creating guided navigation relevant to work during complicated workflows is an ideal example of visual salience for discoverability. One thing to be factored in by designers is that the users must quickly move back and forth between navigation steps.

Notetaking and navigation: A makeshift external memory often plagues users who need information (excel sheets, workflow steps, or sticky notes) to execute the actions in a complex app. Allowing for notetaking within the application eases the workflow because it doesn't require the user to reorient themselves into the application. For deep applications with many functionalities, users need to know where they are and quickly return to the home screen. Having a side menu with the application hierarchy is one example of doing this.

Naming icons: One of the essential things is to name icons that are not universally known in the application. Of course, designers can always include a setting to disable them once the user has learned what the app has to offer and its features. But until then, the extra screen real estate isn't that important.

Accelerators: These include UI features that speed up user interactions on a complex app. For example, hotkeys help reduce unnecessary moves between different menus and dropdowns based on complex workflows. Additionally, accelerators can be placed in the central/sub-menu with the critical combo next to the function or hovering over icons. Finally, tooltip help reveals accelerators in the context of the action or through in-line support, which offers more information on the functionality and using it efficiently.

Flexible contextual inquiry: Designers should provide enough flexibility for users to operate on the app based on their goals and convenience. When in-person contextual inquiries are complex, using a webcam or phone positioned over the user's shoulder or side helps designers view and note user interactions and frustrations in real-time. 

Understanding what works and what doesn't 

Designers need to advocate for more user research from the start of the design cycle since designing something that doesn't work in the real world is useless. Waiting to get a prototype ready for users will delay the design process while attracting unwanted rework or a complete overhaul. It is thus essential to creating training videos and virtual sessions with clients to thoroughly test your design, its functionalities and identify any gaps in the user's environment.

Closing thoughts

For companies looking to rehash their applications or create new ones, involving your users early before any screens are made is crucial. Also, getting them to help during your usability testing is valuable since they are domain experts and can spot things that designers may overlook. 

At Radiant Digital, we understand and design complex applications for different types of business users. So connect with us for the best recommendations today!

 


Crafting Seamless Enterprise Experiences with Omnichannel UX Design

UX design provides a gateway of convenient and intuitive interactions between a brand and a customer. A user perceives a brand as a single experience rather than a collection of different interactive channels. This calls for the delivery of consistent brand experiences through design through all the connected channels. As emerging technologies evolve, so do user expectations. Users have become more sophisticated where their benchmark for a good experience is higher than ever before. Nowadays, users need to interact with brands on various devices and prefer multi-channel engagement. The intelligent, minimal, and seamless design of products and services is the need of the hour. Thus, user journey-based converged and context-specific UX design can accelerate brand loyalty.

Omnichannel UX must put the user at the center of a seamless ecosystem. This environment should promote exceptional user engagements and 'loop' user experiences across channels aligned to their motivations and habits. Omnichannel UX design improves cross-channel engagements. It 'loops' their experience across channels aligned to the user's motivation and habits. According to Kim Flaherty from the Nielsen Norman Group, "Organizations must create omnichannel UX strategies to optimize the end-to-end user experience when completing a task across devices and interaction channels." This includes how customers will first hear about a brand, purchase it, and what after-sales support the company intends to offer.

An omnichannel design strategy should factor in the customer, employees, and the business. Often, companies forget about improving the experience of their internal applications for their employees. They need to weave experiences around enhanced employee productivity, satisfaction, and loyalty, thereby decreasing operating costs and employee turnover. At Radiant, we've outlined the best practices and examples of how your organization can create a top-notch employee experience. In addition to increasing sales and brand loyalty, it can help improve ROI, employee productivity, and satisfaction.

What is Omnichannel UX? 

Omnichannel UX is a design approach to ensure that users continue to enjoy a unified experience across all the channels connected to your enterprise platforms, digital applications, and websites.

The Need for Omnichannel Design

The goal of omnichannel design is to reduce the pain points resulting from an employee moving between channels and touchpoints. It offers a strategic omnichannel approach to direct users to act instantly on product/service triggers and motivations in a channel-agnostic environment. An Omnichannel design strategy helps focus on:

  • Establish and expand your brand presence in a minimalistic, unique, and user-friendly way.
  • Create consistent experiences across online and offline channels for payment processes, Data management, and other functions to improve internal employee & customer journeys.
  • Create frictionless and high-quality channel transitions.
  • Improve the brand's responsiveness to ad hoc customer/employee needs.
  • Increase design relevance and delivering bespoke experiences through proper R&D and A/B Testing.

Important Definitions

  • Touchpoints are app or product interaction points that take place between an employee and their organization. In an enterprise environment, it would be the tasks that the employees need to complete.
  • Channel is where the employee-business interactions take place. The modern omnichannel design differs from the traditional one in implementing a bidirectional approach to employee communication where simultaneously the business and system users can interact.

Five Tenets of Good Omnichannel Design

Omnichannel UX design helps create smooth transitions and exceptional experiences regardless of brand interactions. These six principles govern how Enterprise UX designs are shaped.

Consistency: Any UX needs to deliver consistent and meaningful experiences associated with your brand. The screens must be familiar and uniform, buttons must be consistent design and functionality-wise, while the tone of voice, homogenous. Consistency drives trust, comfort, and credibility.

Optimization: UX designs must be optimized to add clarity, purpose, and context to the interaction channel and user journey. Context and function-based optimization enable allows value maximization. It can also differentiate your organization and enhance employee engagement by leveraging technological capabilities that fit different channels.

Seamlessness: With the omnichannel design, the same employee experience standards should be available in all channels. A seamless design makes transitions between touchpoints frictionless and straightforward. Employees should be able to pause an activity and resume it later from an alternative touchpoint. This seamlessness offers a holistic, real-time view of the employee interface and backend integrations with all the channels.

Orchestration: The Omnichannel design must let the organization use data to anticipate user needs and display relevant content on the right channel on-demand.

Collaboration and Channel-Neutrality: Irrespective of the purpose, your design should allow employees to switch between touchpoints and see the same data and options across all the channels. A business driver for one channel may create a bad experience in alternative channels. This can be avoided when diverse touchpoints work in tandem to enrich the all-around employee experience without delays or interruptions.

Implementing Omnichannel Enterprise Experiences

The first step in enterprise UX design implementation using the above principles includes learning more about the target users. A/B Testing helps understand your users' expectations, preferences, and context-specific behavior. Analyzing data from interviews and surveys (UX research) is also crucial in determining the best channel types to access content and functionalities in an enterprise system. After designing an omnichannel experience, you must measure the employee cross-channel interactions using KPIs and metrics. This helps improve the transitions between multiple channels.

Here's how omnichannel UX experts at Radiant Digital apply the above tenets to internal enterprise design.

Making channels consistent: We ensure that users don't have to reorient themselves when switching to a new channel. This is useful for tasks that employees don't use that often.

  • We provide consistent iconography and layout for different channels.
  • We use a design system or style guides based on the resources available across all channels in an organization.

Making touchpoints Optimized: We ensure the core experience of any channel is the same while the content and features are specific to their context of use. If two employees with different roles and responsibilities use a shared channel, we ensure they see only the relevant touchpoint.

  • We set up user roles as per the employee's organizational position and authorized channel tasks.

Making Channels Seamless: If users have to complete a task, they may need to navigate different channels. We design the UX interface to meet each subtask and redirect the user to the location where they need to execute the next subtask. The user should not have to recall which step they were at and open and close applications.

  • We create guided flows that take users through the workflow without worrying about where they are or what they need to do.
  • We design the flow for requests and approvals within the application, along with status updates. This way, users don't need to contact their supervisors outside of their working application.

Enabling Orchestration in individual Channels: Orchestration primarily implements automation and data analytics to simplify an employee's workflow.

  • We implement the pre-population of information (auto-fill capabilities) required by a particular user on a specific channel.
  • We employ built-in automation for repetitive tasks by integrating the core system modules with RPA software.
  • We use data analytics and business intelligence to get visibility and direction on what work needs to be done next by the employee.

Collaborative Design: This includes determining whether the channels work together for a unified experience in a related group. We assess if the employees can share and collaborate easily with other users throughout their workflow.

  • We identify the workflow areas and optimize their handoff to the next person in the task flow.

Omnichannel Buy-in

  • Omnichannel design requires a multi-area understanding of the business and catering to multiple teams.
  • Designers need to map out and measure the ROI of an omnichannel UX design based on the current workflows.
  • Departmental silos primarily impact the seamlessness and consistency of an employee's workflow. It can be jarring to navigate applications when the style systems and context differ from another employee application.
  • Leadership buy-in is essential to cater to the above needs. It also ensures seamless team collaboration in omnichannel enterprise design.

Retrospective

Designing omnichannel experiences help provide 360-degree engagement between employees and organizations. A design team's victory lies in building accurate omnichannel designs around people and their needs using backend platforms and APIs. An omnichannel user experience positions your design to offer fluid and customized interactions. When you embrace omnichannel enterprise design as a UX designer, you must be in a position to transform employees into brand ambassadors. Connect with our omnichannel UX experts to learn more!