Two Questions that Set the User Experience Bar


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I have posted often about my support for ideas like Geoffrey Moore’s Systems of Engagement and Gartner’s endorsement of a Pace Layering approach to IT’s management of their technology portfolio. I just think the ideas make sense.

But I recently realized that there are two simple questions that set the minimum user experience bar for applications:

1. Is using the application required to successfully get things done?

2. Is the application an integral part of my daily work activities that i use frequently, or do I only use it when necessary to complete a specific task?

And the decisions that follow are fairly simple:

  1. If required and frequent, make it functional.
    In this scenario, you can expect the user to go through some training to learn the application and since they use it frequently, they’ll learn how to get things done. Internal applications like core ERP and HR probably fall into this category. Often, the value of these apps is not mea

  2. If required and occasional, make it intuitive.
    Intuitive applications are ones that people can quickly understand and get a feel for. Detailed training should not be expected, and they need to be something people will feel comfortable with quickly. Speed is of the essence. Self-Service applications fit this category (e.g. expense reporting).
  3. If optional and occasional, make it Obvious.
    If I don’t have to use the application and only need it occasionally, I want to go beyond intuitive. Don’t make me figure things out, make it so easy its obvious. I would put e-commerce in this category.
  4. If optional and frequent, it better be Engaging.
    Finally, if you want someone to use an optio nal application as am integral part of their work activities, it needs to engage them. This could be the interface, but its more likely that its a combination of that and the content and functionality of the application. It needs to entice them into seeing how it makes their work day easier.

I’d submit that applications for sales, like SFA, should fall into this category. In reality, unless you create artificial mandates (you must use the system), they aren’t truly required to close business—-they are there to help.

The unfortunate reality is most SFA applications (and yes I am picking on SFA as convenient example), tend toward being more functionally oriented, which helps explain why there are oft-cited adoption issues.

As you look at applications as a buyer (or design them as a vendor), think about the two user experience questions. I think both questions are not considered deeply enough before products are designed. We wish and hope that people will view them as required and use them all the time, but that is not reality.

Be pragmatic and realistic and you’ll set the minimum bar for your user experience investment. Go beyond the minimum to differentiate further or drive more user satisfaction.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Hank Barnes
Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies--particularly around marketing, positioning, and customer experience--for technology providers. Hank has more than 25 years of high-technology sales and marketing experience in both field and corporate roles, both as an individual contributor and the marketing leader for several startups. He is a long-time proponent of customer-centric marketing and the use of customer experience as a key differentiator for business success. His posts here include content from his days with Adobe, SAP, and now Gartner


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