Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Old meets new world: enterprise UX

A few days ago, I got a message from Derek Singleton of Software Advice telling me about a survey they're conducting: Ten Consumer Web UI Themes We’d Like to See in Business Applications is what it is called
Software Advice apparently is a company offering free advice for software buyers, and although I don't have any experience with them I think they'll give the Gartners, Forresters and McKinsey's of this world a well-needed kick-in-the-chin

Not particularly agreeing with that title, I'd rather call it "Which Consumer functionality would you use at Work"? as it's not about Web UI, but about User eXperience.
The survey gives a nice and elaborate description of 10 user interface methods, some of which I didn't know, and I wonder who knows them all. It is a one-choice-two-click survey, so you'll be done quickly with that part

The picture above depicts IBM's / Lenovo's "graphical stick", one of the worst user interfaces I've encountered. The stick is too small yet too wide, causing the cursor to end up at different places in a document when typing fast. It took me a while to even find out why it did that, including a way how to find back my cursor. Even cutting off the edges of the little red "mushroom" didn't help me much, in the end I just entirely removed it.
I also never understood why it had to be placed right in the middle of the keyboard, as someone never types and uses the mouse simultaneously. It is much the same as placing the mirror above the sink: you don't need a mirror when washing your hands, nor vice versa.
So, I hope, as people started to separate mirrors from sinks in lavatories, that Lenovo will also move the stick to a safe place well away from the keyboard

We all have our examples of what doesn't work, and what does, I think. In the survey I voted for Google suggested search, as finding the right words when looking for something is about 90% of the work. Knowledge Management systems in enterprises are infamous for the free text search they provide, and the mysterious ways in how they, and especially where, they apply these words when executing the search

It would be really great to combine the Google suggested words with the possibility of weighing words: if encountered in the title of a document, summary, content itself or comments / votes on it, and presenting those in some sortable order

Anyway, if you compare enterprise applications to the consumer web, they still have a long way to go. They'll never be able to adapt quickly enough unless moving to a SaaS model, if only it were for the user interface. SaaS-ing the presentation layer alone would solve some great objections to the Cloud model, and give companies a maximum headstart to take advantage of that area where excellence is measured best: the part closest to the user

But that's something for another post. Meanwhile, please take the survey, Derek will be pleased and so will I as I'm curious to see the end result

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