If you’ve spent any time searching or shopping on Amazon.com, you already know that consistent, predictable UX can streamline workflows, although you may not have noticed. On every Amazon page, whether it’s a listing for cat food or high-end cashmere sweaters, every product is packaged in the exact same layout. The header is the same across the entire site. The buttons are all in the exact same place. Even the product information and reviews, aside from the specific text, are basically identical across books, toys, and electronics. It may not be cutting-edge visual design, but it is effective user experience design. The kind of modular design that makes this possible also makes sites like Amazon global leaders. The best UX makes the workload invisible so that the product can take center stage.
That’s true of enterprise digital products, too. The sort of consistent, systems-level thinking that forms the foundation of computer science also sits at the core of most good user experiences.
Increasingly, companies that create enterprise products are realizing that good UX doesn’t just make their product more appealing to people, it can also make them more valuable in various other ways. “Design debt” can cost money by increasing training costs and customer support costs. Additionally, new features or upgrades become more difficult without the planning and modularity that comes with good UX.
Good design saves time
Good design saves time for everyone who touches a digital product, starting with designers. When designers can build modularly and consistently, they save time by not having to create every page from scratch. Developers also benefit from this modular design; they can build templates and pieces of the product to reuse wherever applicable. When the product they create is consistent and behaves predictably, users save time; they don’t have to figure out how every new feature or page is going to function. When a product is intuitive and straightforward for users to use, the company that sells it saves time, too. They can spend less time training new customers, and less time fielding support calls about confusing features or work flows.
… and money
Those time savings equate to dollars saved. Designers can spend more time creating value-add features, end users can spend more time doing their jobs than figuring out the new software that’s supposed to help them, and enterprise product companies can hire fewer training and support staff or funnel that staff into more high-value activities. Having a good design can also mean spending less money when scaling to accommodate new features, planned upgrades, or future product iterations.
Moderation is everything
Every time our team runs into a situation where our design pattern doesn’t work, we try to remember to step back and consider whether we are taking consistency too far and making the problem bigger or worse than it already was. Sometimes, it just means that this one instance really does need a unique design. Other times it helps us reconsider something inherent in the design or a pattern so common across the product we’re creating that we need to entirely rethink our model or pattern. Sure, we’ll end up doing more work as a result, but it will also mean we create something better and more sustainable in the long term.
Spend time and money to save it
It might seem counterintuitive that spending more time and money on design up front would positively benefit the bottom line later on, but it’s true. Companies can save money in meaningful ways by lowering customer support calls, reducing the time it takes to onboard and train new users, and future-proofing their product so new additions and upgrades seamlessly fit into the existing pattern without extra effort.
This is the fourth installment of our Design for Enterprise series. Check out the previous three posts on designing for enterprise users, knowing your enterprise audience, and balancing user value with business value.