The Role of Great Design and Development in Creating Effective, Easy-to-Use Applications
Because apps have become a fundamental part of owning a smartphone, tablet, or computer, they’re now part of our daily routines. Apps allow us to complete tasks in a more efficient and engaging way. But the consumer apps we use to play games or share photos differ from business and enterprise apps. Here’s how.
Consumer apps include social media, gaming, sports and music apps, and are frequently downloaded in app stores under various categories such as entertainment, health, finance, travel, music, etc. They’re often designed to improve a part of our daily lives and they try to attract and retain users through an emotional attachment element in the design. They earn revenue by profiting from in-app purchases, subscriptions and ads. Consumer apps may also provide the experience of instant gratification from product purchase ‘buyer’s high’ or the satisfaction from achieving a high score on a game. For example, a game app might ask the user if they would like to pay an additional fee to boost their score, or when they lose a stage, to let them continue playing.
Consumer apps also compete to find ways to make their apps better than the competition in the app store. A user can often choose from multiple apps that do similar tasks. Many of these apps are used across the world which creates challenges in designing the app for international audiences; supporting different languages, cultures, and preferences. Designing UI for different languages may have to account for major variations in the character count of a word in one language as opposed to another. For example, the English word “nursery” translates to “kindergarten” in German. Multiplied by hundreds of words of varying lengths, differences such as these needs present the visual challenge of allowing the text in each language enough screen room to read clearly and comfortably as well as preventing it from being truncated.
Enterprise apps are designed to achieve business functions rather than to meet the needs or preferences of individual users. There are 2 major types of enterprise applications; “open” apps developed to support internal interactions that might be common to many companies, and “closed” apps made specifically for singular companies to support its processes. An example of an “open” enterprise app could be an application such as JIRA, a project and bug tracking application that is often used by engineering companies. Many other kinds of businesses could purchase JIRA to support their internal processes as well. Other uses for open apps are time reporting, billing, and payment processing applications. While these apps have a generic function to be used internally, their sales target multiple individual businesses across many sectors.
A “closed” enterprise application has a more specific purpose which is made with a certain company’s function in mind and is often too specific for another company to use. These applications are often tailored to a specific business use case, hence the application’s users are restricted to that company. Closed apps are generally more expensive than consumer apps due to high complexity. They are often developed on a custom or bespoke basis and their development and evolution often a greater investment in time and resources than do consumer apps.
Enterprise apps are designed to increase productivity, streamline processes and create efficiencies. They can allow for more flexibility and mobility so that an employee need not be confined to a certain space while working. They create revenue in a more indirect way than consumer apps, as the efficiencies these applications provide often add up to substantial savings in time and operating costs over time. The billing model for enterprise apps can be a one-time fee for a lifetime license or a subscription-based service. The latter is increasingly becoming the norm.
Creating a visually appealing enterprise app is seen by some industries as an unnecessary expense. A company may regard the app as more of a tool to complete a task and see UX as an afterthought or an unnecessary distraction. For example, an animation may improve aesthetic design but slow the user from completing tasks and so it may not be an efficient addition to the interface. However, fun or pleasing aesthetics often both delight the enterprise user and encourage use of the application. Such features can make for the most successful enterprise applications.
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Despite differences between consumer and enterprise apps, there are some similarities. There are universal expectations about how any modern application should behave and look. Both kinds of apps are also expected to be easy to use and responsive. Many enterprise apps have adopted a modern, minimalistic design to prevent users from dreading to use it due to poor visuals or an overly complicated design.
A goal for enterprise app developers is that when the client starts using the application, it has a noticeable positive impact on the client’s business. Developers of enterprise software want repeat customers and for those customers to recommend them to other companies. Consumer app developers, on the other hand, also want positive reviews in the app stores as well as good word of mouth amongst consumers.
Some enterprise designers argue that enterprise apps should increasingly mimic consumer apps. This can be done by focusing on UX and putting more thought and research into how the user would use their application to increase ease of use and productivity. This will cause the adoption process to be more natural instead of causing the users to feel as if the app was foisted upon them. To assist in this, designers sometimes include an onboarding experience inside the app so that it does not require outside training to use. Customization in apps, such as customizing the app’s appearance for the team using it, allows for a feeling of ownership. The danger here is that looking at the needs and preferences of individual departments or company users can result in less effective overall business function of the application. The supreme goal of the enterprise developer is to improve the efficiencies and increased revenue for clients by streamlining processes and creating appealing, easy-to-use interfaces which encourage employee efficiency and enjoyment.
Both the similarities of and differences between consumer and enterprise applications must be considered while planning development. The primary purpose is to best accomplish customers’ desired goals. Increasingly, it is also important to design and code for a positive and engaging user experience. Software developers and UX/UI designers create optimal products when taking these considerations into account at every step of their collaborative process.
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