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How to Bridge the Gap Between Enterprise and Consumer Apps

Posted by Nathan Graves on Jun 13, 2014 2:24:41 PM

As we continue to do business in the midst of the digital economy, mobile apps are becoming critical business tools as companies seek to mobilize and optimize key business processes. And although functionality of these apps is of utmost importance, the visual experience plays a larger role, too, which is why this is the year for bridging the design gap between enterprise and consumer apps. The consumerization of IT is rapidly changing the enterprise technology landscape. And to meet these changes, it falls partly on UI/UX designers (like yours truly) to forge a middle ground between enterprise apps and consumer apps.

The theme you’ll hear from any blog on the consumerization of IT is that everyone in your organization uses a mobile device both in their personal and professional lives: everyone is a consumer.

The users are the same, but the processes and purposes are different. Yet, it’s a solid guarantee that Warehouse Joe experiences a much sleeker, more visually interesting and intuitive interface when he’s slashing pixelated fruit on his lunch break than when he’s out on the floor preparing shipments with his mobile device.

Our goal at DSI: to achieve a look and feel similar to consumer apps without sacrificing utility.

Out of necessity, enterprise apps have been built to get the job done. In the enterprise app hierarchy, function sits squarely over form. When building an enterprise app, the first question is: what do you need to get done? For example, “I need my driver to update orders from the field.” What we might commonly see to address that task is the barest amount of information and a blank data entry field squashed in the left hand corner over a white background.

When a user sees that screen without prior training, they get the same look on their face my dog does when I ask for a handshake. His face says, “I love you, but I don’t know what you want me to do here.” As a UI/UX designer, the last thing you want your app to invoke is this quizzical stare with head cocked to the side.

By embracing some of the strengths of consumer apps, UI/UX designers in the enterprise can create smart designs that are functional and tailored to specific business processes. When I say well-designed, I’m looking for specific criteria. A well-designed app shows intention put into the design — it’s intuitive, if not instructional. On the surface, it should be visually impressive, but inside, it should not only be powerful — it should also make work and processes easier and more efficient.

As much as users are now accustomed to visual elements in consumer apps and high-class visual design, the apps must also be thoughtful and relevant to the task at hand. You might even make the argument that this sort of relevance is sometimes more important in an enterprise app, since these mobile solutions are likely enabling a business-related process and can be a critical problem-solving tool.

The million-dollar question is, of course, how to achieve this balance. At DSI, we use a comprehensive discovery process to gather your business requirements, goals and long-term strategy. Once we know exactly what information and processes you need in your hands, we can build a visually engaging, agile app that meets current needs and can be quickly scaled to accommodate future business growth and change.

What are you looking for in an enterprise app? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

Thanks for reading! Check in next month and we’ll dive in to some specific UI/UX topics.

Lead image: Andy Brannan via CC

Topics: app design, business apps, consumer apps, consumerization of IT, dsi, enterprise mobile apps, enterprise technology, nathan graves, Platform & Technology, ui/ux, Customer Engagement

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