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User Experience: The New IT Imperative?

May was definitely UX month at OutSystems! During our yearly user conference, attendees from around the world participated in dozens of sessions to define and discuss the quality of Great Apps and what it takes to create them.

Usability expert Steve Krug, author of “Don’t Make me Think,” and “Rocket Surgery Made Easy,” gave a talk and workshops around the importance of user testing. Version 8 of the OutSystems Platform was unveiled, showcasing the addition of a powerful new user interface editor in the IDE that simplifies the creation of highly usable interfaces, as well as other change management and operational enhancements.

But Why Usability? Why User Experience?

The difference between helping enterprises release applications into production and enabling them to create powerful applications that are widely adopted is based on their usability and user experience. This year’s conference was about understanding the power of the Great App in the modern workplace.

It is clear that since the early 2000s Apple has raised the bar on user experience. The mass adoption of their products proved there was genuine demand for it and since then, everything about the way people expect to experience technology has changed. This is known as the consumerization of IT and is itself the topic of discussion at events like this year’s CITE 2013.

All of this is only to say that…

User Experience Has Become a Corporate Asset

A corporate asset the same way real estate, intellectual property, and brand identity are. At this point in time most enterprises have been, at least, socialized to this idea. With mobile proliferation worth billions of dollars and BYOD projections equaling billions more, people are bringing their high tech devices to work with the EXPECTATION that enterprise applications will at least work as well as what they use at home.

So, as we’ve written often in this blog, if IT wants to stay relevant to their organizations, they are going to need to not only respond to user needs, but proactively cater to them. If they want to extend applications to the boundaries where workers exist, and if they are interested in delivering enterprise apps to mobile devices, and also have them adopted by users, then they are going to have to scale their UX strategy.

The benefits to business are too valuable not to! The cost savings alone are enough to justify implementing formal usability concerns. According to the IEEE, 15% of all projects are abandoned, and of the top twelve reasons projects fail, three are directly related to not getting user experience right. Whether it’s bad usability testing, user centered design, or project management, getting user experience in-house and under control is as imperative today as extending brand identity.

But How Can Organizations Get IT Developers to Begin Thinking About Design?

Developers will not have time to become usability experts, nor should they. However, it’s still important for them to learn some basic concepts in order to make an application better.

For starters, IT developers and software engineers could start by learning more about user centered design. In fact, it’s imperative that developers understand the key concepts behind usability and the value those principles will bring to their apps.

From there it’s also important to know that successful applications have 3 key characteristics:

  • They are high quality (work with no bugs)
  • They are high performance (work as fast as possible)
  • They are highly usability (easy to work with)

Although quality and performance should already be part of any developer’s checklist, usability is something relatively new and not natural for a developer. However it is key to user adoption and therefore shouldn’t be dismissed, but embraced!

So Why Do IT Teams Tend To Jump Over Usability?

Two reasons:

  1. They believe that adding usability concerns to their projects will considerably extend their project’s duration, and they are already struggling with time.
  2. They don’t have in-house resources, and hiring external usability consultants is considered too expensive

The problem with this line of thinking is that there’s nothing worse than delivering a business application and realizing that users won’t adopt it because it isn’t usable. By making certain developers are the first in line to think and worry about the usability of applications – preferably while developing – IT departments will be setting the path for higher user adoption rates at lower costs. So, while developing an application, your IT team should understand two points:

  1. Regarding costs, applications don’t have to be developed to 100% usability. Investments can be made to those parts of the application that are used 80% of the time, or areas that present serious UX problems. Low cost usability testing is also available, as described in Krugs’, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy.”
  2. To help your team with resources necessary to continue on this journey, we have developed a “UX-for-IT” initiative that includes a toolkit that was especially designed to help IT departments adopt and scale their UX strategies. It contains an eBook outlining 11 usability principles for developers, along with examples. There’s also a Vision Document Template, useful in helping IT teams understand and collaborate with their users when they begin building applications. We also included an easy to use UX checklist for aligning the build process to best practices.

There is no reason not to think about usability. Application development without user adoption as the ultimate goal is simply wasted effort. With usability considered from the beginning, IT departments can ensure that the efforts they are making are applied to the businesses needs.

About the author

Rodrigo Coutinho

A member of the founder’s team, Rodrigo has a passion for web development, great products, and geeky stuff. He spends his time designing future versions of the OutSystems Platform and dreaming about the cool future of the web.

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