By Shivam Sahai, Sr. UX Designer
User Experience (UX) Design has been a rapidly growing area that has seen build a lot of traction in the recent past. Today, business and technology alone are not only factors driving how a product shapes up, rather the consideration of end-users has gained tremendous attention in the recent past. This has brought UX Designers to a centre-stage in the entire product lifecycle who now own a crucial responsibility to build effective experiences for many enterprise products today.
For a UX consultant however, having the knowledge of user-centered design processes, deliverables, techniques and methods is simply not enough. From my experience of working in this space, there are additional aspects that must be factored in while embarking on such projects. Here I list down 5 pitfalls that a UX consultant must be aware of while embarking on a design engagement for an enterprise suite :
1) Piece-meal approach is risky: An enterprise product suite is like a big elephant (so as to say). If you start small, one module at a time, you actually have no clue what you are going to build in the end. This is a very common challenge with product suites owing to the scale and complexity inherent to them. By starting piece-meal (a single module at a time and then building up), you run the risk of creating a design which is not well informed in terms of various design factors, for instance an ineffective information architecture, inter-module navigation and a not-so-scalable overarching structure. In such a scenario, it is important to start with the big picture. Several questions needs to be answered; what are the modules that make up the suite, how are they related, is there any access strategy defined for the end users. Based on a broad understanding, it is a good idea to start with a robust overarching container for the entire suite and then further drill down into specific areas.
2) Big-bang changes may be detrimental: As UX designers, we are always enthusiastic to revolutionise the product experience. We are always thrilled at trying out new ideas, new concepts, and challenge the status-quo. However, what we also need to understand is how the product has evolved over time. It might have taken years of iterations, release cycles for the product to reach where it is today. In this journey, both product stakeholders and the end users may have become used to the existing interface. As consultants, we can’t expect to turn it upside down overnight. Doing so might leave a huge on-boarding cost as well as a learning curve which might not fit into realities.
3) Consistency is critical: Enterprise product suites are usually expansive in terms of modules, features and their scope. However, these systems are still common platforms for the end users, who might access different parts of the system as per their defined roles. In such a scenario, it is imperative to define a common library that documents the interaction and visual language for the entire platform. Such a baseline ensures consistency (in terms of interactions, visual look and feel) across the entire suite. Additionally, it also prevents the design team from ‘reinventing the wheel’ every time a new component is designed and saves efforts and time. For the end users, common interactions and behaviour supports quick learning and offers a predictable experience across the suite.
4) Teams must work hand-in-hand:Design itself is an elaborate exercise and takes its own sweet time to reach a logical conclusion and acceptance from clients. Although it might be seem to be a time to celebrate, the reality is it is just a start of the story. To translate a design into a seamless end product, it is imperative to work closely with the engineering teams throughout the process. This could be in terms of working hand-in-hand to understand their release cycles, technical feasibilities and even build a rapport that builds mutual trust on both sides. Such a mutual understanding and acceptance can go miles to ensure there in no loss in translation from design to engineering. Another area where synergy is of utmost importance is the design team itself. Owing to the nature and complexity of the product, team members usually face different contexts, interaction patterns, visual language scenarios etc. To ensure that the team is building a cohesive experience, it is important that everyone is aware of any new interaction or visual guidelines. Conducting periodic workshops is a good way for everyone to share their experiences in the entire design team and also to learn from others.
5) Work as partners: User experience is not a mere one-time-service, so as to speak. As consultants, we need to be aligned to the strategic roadmap for the product. This means ensuring that we are plugged-in to the key stakeholders and decision-makers. We should be in a position to not just consume requirements from the clients, rather have the influence to contribute to the roadmap. Clients, in general, should ideally create such space for us, and must be receptive towards new ideas and possibilities. Such a relationship would ensure we work as their strategic partners, rather than just a short-time consultant.
If you have any suggestions based on your experience in this space, would be happy to see you leave a comment. Thanks.