On-boarding key to enterprise app success

You’ve spent a fortune on developing the front end of enterprise software development, but your employees are not using it or going about it all wrong.

The problem could be a lack of “user onboarding”. That’s a phrase used to describe the first interaction your users have when they first interact with your app.

If you like you can see this as the digital equivalent of the experience you have the first time you meet someone new, when you first call a company helpline or meet someone at the reception desk. The nature of that first contact informs your future interaction with those people.

The same logic applies in application design.

Get it right and employees are far more likely to use it, get it wrong and they’ll do whatever they can to avoid using it – no matter how useful it could be.

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design,” said Jaguar CEO, Ralph Speth, who insists on good design across his company.

Enterprise application design must mirror the cultural change that is taking place across the enterprise as digital processes enable fresh focus on business agility. This seismic shift is shaking the foundations of the monolithic approach traditionally taken elsewhere in the enterprise. Whereas before functionality was raised above user experience, these days user experience is also valuable.

It’s not easy, of course. “It is a huge challenge for application development teams, largely because they have designed their operations and expertise on how you can get extra functionality into products, not necessarily how you get people to have an enjoyable experience using it,” says Gartner VP, Brian Prentice.

It is possible that with a focus on function, some in senior IT positions haven’t put a great deal of thought into user onboarding and effective app design before. Simple questions like “What is the application, what is it for, and how will people use it?” are a good starting point.

It may still be true that your employees don’t buy the software you provide, they do buy in – and if you hope to unleash productivity gains you should ensure the journey to accomplishing this is not rendered over complex through poor interface design, and the onboarding process is very much part of that.

“Onboarding tends to fail when you simply line up a bunch of stuff for people to do without knowing whether that stuff directly increases the chances they will find ongoing success,” warns onboarding expert and user experience consultant, Samuel Hulick.  “New users can run around on a wild goose chase inside your product just fine on their own; you don’t need to build a machine that helps them do it.”

We’ve summarized some of the good suggestions Hulick makes that should help inform good onboarding design:

  • List the most important tasks your users are likely to be using your app for.
  • Make these tasks clear and logical to undertake through simple, clutter-free interfaces.
  • Think ahead: Ideally a new user will receive clear, comprehensive and friendly in-app guidance to help them through each step from the get go.
  • Design for short bursts of activity reflecting that most people interact with mobile devices for short periods.
  • Focus on consistency across every platform you support – a learn once, learn anywhere, approach.

We hope we’ve made a case to help you develop successful enterprise solutions across your business. Explore how our Orange Applications for Business team can help unleash digital efficiencies across your enterprise, from SaaS to systems integration.

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.