Enterprise Software Design Blog

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If you have ever been a manager and managed team of people, you’ll identify with this…

Novice:  ants to be given a manual, told what to do, with no decisions possible

Advanced beginner: needs a bit of freedom, but is unable to quickly describe a hierarchy of which parts are more important than others

Competent: wants the ability to make plans, create routines and choose among activities

Proficient: The more freedom you offer, the more you expect, the more you’ll get

Expert: writes the manual, doesn’t follow it.

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There is an unwritten rule and widespread acknowledgment within the software industry that 80% of end users of enterprise software’s only use 20% of the features provided in an application. Imagine how many times we have used all the features available in our word processing software such as tracking changes, creating envelopes, inserting citation etc. Most of the time we only use  common features such as create a document, format the document and then print it. That’s it.

Enterprise software vendors in a race to expand and capture market share, offer a number of features in their applications. It could range from a simple data entry to complex work flow solutions. The product team incrementally adds these features in to the product and to increase the demonstration capability of the product and to reduce number of clicks, they bury the entire feature in one single screen. They fill up every single pixel on the screen with UI widgets such as links and text fields. While this makes the look product feature intensive and reduces the number of clicks, it also clutters the screen and the amount of information display the end user is simply overwhelming. While reducing the number of clicks is a good idea, it shouldn’t be at the expense of clarity and usability. Once such screen is given below

This screen was designed by team who doesn’t know which feature is critical to customers and instead offered all the features in one single screen. There are following disadvantages with this approach.

  1. Too much information on the screen.
  2. UI is cluttered and unstructured.
  3. It offers too many features such as opportunity editing, adding products, adding contacts and interested parties, adding attachment and notes.

Does this mean that enterprise application shouldn’t deliver many features and Shouldn’t cater to the rest of the 20% of the market? No. They should and an intelligent design would help them do all these.

A typical sales representative is interested in creating a opportunity and recording its revenue. All other features such as contacts, attachments and notes though are good to have but are not critical to complete the sales process. So I recommend a design that by default hides all other details other than the critical ones. The sales rep will have a UI widget (a link) that will allow him to show and hide these features. I would redesign as it’s given below.

The sales representative, as they get comfortable with the common features will start exploring the hidden features and will start using as they deem fit. This design makes a clear distinction between what is critical to a sales representative and will coerce him to start looking to other features provided. This will allow for the entire software to be voluntarily adopted by the end user.The are apparent advantages of this design is given below

  1. There is no information overload.
  2. The information displayed is structured and uncluttered.
  3. The design is self evident. The user knows what he can accomplish my looking the page

Hello Everyone. Thanks for visiting my blog.  I have created this blog to share my experience about enterprise software design in general and any topic that affects the enterprise software.

Enterprise software design is a niche segment and while much of the thought has gone in to designing application from technology perspective not much has been researched or written about enterprise sofware design from the aesthetics and usability perspective. This blog will address these aspects of enterprise software and hopefully educate the readers about the concept of enterprise software design, create thought provoking ideas and appraise them about the latest development in this area.

I would like reiterate that the views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely mine and does not reflect or endorse my organizations views or decisions.


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