“It looks beautiful!” “It’s pretty good.” “It does the job.”
Those aren’t the worst things people could say about a user interface, but would you be confident that a “pretty” or “OK” user interface is capable of taking your organization to the next level? How would you define “pretty good” -- having a nice appearance, sold design and quality graphics? OK, but do those qualities necessarily result in efficiencies and improvements to your business processes?
A good user interface can have a powerful impact on the usability and user experience of an application. Let’s face it, a hard-to-use application won’t be used efficiently, and it may not be used at all. We should all aspire to create an interface that enables and encourages end users to use an application frequently so they become more confident, efficient and productive users.
Before providing insight on what makes an interface good, let’s take a look at the risks an organization faces when it settles for a bad interface. If an interface isn’t built with its users in mind, no one will be able to find the information they need when they need it, nor will they remember where anything is. It’s like being caught in a rainstorm and not being able to open your umbrella. You’re lucky to have an umbrella, but its poor design leaves you with a very bad user experience -- not to mention dripping wet. A bad user interface can be responsible for a slew of inefficiencies.
Does an interface need to be pretty? You want users to want to use it (hopefully they'll even enjoy using it), and attractiveness can help in that regard. Just keep in mind that "pretty" doesn’t necessarily mean usable.
Once you think your user interface is good, what can you do to ensure it really is?
Try out different design ideas before committing to them. This will greatly minimize the risk of costly and time-consuming changes later in the process.
Set measurable goals and measure actual behavior. Benchmark your employees’ interactions and productivity before updating your interface, so that you can then evaluate the new environment against the benchmarks you set. Are you achieving your desired productivity gains?
Implement and evaluate. Uncover hidden inefficiencies by sampling actual user workflows. Look for repetitive screen interactions, unnecessary steps, confusing warnings, scenarios that require switching between applications or screen clutter that could lead to excessive downtime. User data paints a vibrant picture of what’s happening to whom and when. And once you have it, you can take corrective action rather than waiting for frustrated users to open help tickets.
In the end, a good interface is one that enables efficiency, increases productivity, supports end users and saves your organization money.