In recent months, we’ve all had to find new ways of working with one another. Collaboration in the workplace has never been more important – and since Covid-19, we’ve been forced to change the way we operate so that teamwork can continue. It’s not been easy to maintain a degree of normality, but businesses have proved remarkably flexible.
Of course, it’s always important to improve communication in whatever ways you can. The rapid shift to remote working, though, has meant that a lot of people have had to get to grips with the finer points of virtual project management in a short space of time.
Amidst all this upheaval and change, it’s important not to lose sight of the needs of the people who are using our products and services – software among them.
If you’re developing software, you might have found working from home a bit of a challenge. Normally you’d be able to work alongside your colleagues in coworking spaces to develop and flesh out your ideas. Instead, we’re having to use virtual methods of maintaining collaboration. But we can’t afford to lose sight of who that software is ultimately intended for.
This is why we always need to think carefully about how we might keep users engaged with software we create. User expectations are changing, and escalating, all the time. People have come to expect intuitive, seamless experiences and user-friendly design as a matter of course. If they don’t get it, the chances are they’ll simply go elsewhere.
You might think you’re offering the best video conferencing for small business, but if your users don’t agree, they’ll explore alternatives. In this quick guide, we’ll look at what you can do to improve the end user’s experience and meet these rising expectations.
Why the user experience matters
The user’s experience is of fundamental importance in software development. Think about it: as a user, what would you be looking for from an app? You no doubt use various apps yourself from day to day, in a personal capacity as well as a professional one. It’s unlikely that you’d waste too much time on an app that’s clunky, glitchy, or simply awkward to use. So, you can’t expect your own users to persevere, either.
It’s not enough for an app simply to do what it’s supposed to do. This is the bare minimum, but nothing more. Users expect something over and above this from the apps they favor. They expect software to function smoothly and reliably, as well as being well designed. Basic functionality and robust application security are necessary, but alone they’re not sufficient. That’s whether you’re working on a retail app or PR software.
Taking this change in user expectations fully into account requires a cultural change on your own part, too. Your team must consider not just how their software might meet the most elementary, fundamental user needs. They also need to think about how it might do so in a way that offers them maximum convenience, and the smoothest possible overall experience.
User experience in education
It’s also worth stopping momentarily to consider the unique requirements of user experience in educational software. There’s an ever-growing plethora of educational software for students of varying ages – from schoolchildren to university students – and software design can have a significant impact on how they learn.
Obviously, software design will need to take into account the age profile of the students who will be using it. For younger children, an emphasis on bright colors and engaging visuals (including animations) are good for keeping them engaged. Older students are looking for more in-depth content, although this shouldn’t come at the expense of engaging and user-friendly design.
How to enhance the user experience
So, we’ve established the importance of understanding what users expect from software and keeping up with the ever-quickening pace of their expectations. Now we need to discuss exactly what you can do to go about taking the user experience to the next level.
Firstly, this is a matter of assembling the right team as much as anything. There’s always a lot of discussion about recruiting top talent, and the competition for genuinely exceptional skills is always intense. It’s not just about skills and experience, though, vitally important as both of these are. Your colleagues also need to share a vision, and a commitment to putting the user’s needs first.
What’s also crucial is that you take the time to learn exactly what users are looking for. There’s no better way of doing this than to survey them and ask them what they think. This allows you to gain insights that you can then use as part of the development process. It will also enable you to get a better idea of what factors might affect the overall customer retention rate, so that you can maximize this.
When you’re ready to begin the testing phase, you should take care to gather user feedback at each step of the way. Remember, you can’t afford to treat this like a tick-box exercise. You need to take this feedback seriously and act on it. Users who test your software will likely see things that your team has missed; their perspectives should be values. Doing so can help you address issues you might otherwise overlook.
It might seem like an obvious point to make, but if you can understand what the people who will actually use the product are looking for from it, you’ll be in a much better position to develop software that meets their expectations. This will also help you when sales prospecting. You’ll be pitching a product that is the result of painstaking work, and which was built around the needs of the user from the very outset of the project.
Keeping users engaged with your software
Having discussed the importance of the user experience and the issues relating to it, hopefully the approach you need to take is becoming clearer in your mind. It might sound a little back-to-front, but you must start with the user experience at the forefront of your mind. That can save a lot of time in the development process, and avoid unnecessary hassle later on.
Obviously, consumer-focused industries generally work in the same way. They start by thinking about what the customer wants and how they can deliver on it. But software developers are often stuck in a certain kind of mindset. The type which tends to preoccupy them with meeting the most basic requirements and blinding them to the wider user experience.
In providing your end users with the kind of experience they’re looking for, the most important thing is to listen. The sooner you take the opinions of end users on board, the smoother the development process will be. When you’re equipped with a thorough appreciation of user expectations, you’ll be far better placed to meet them.
You are in the business of delivering an amazing product or service for your users. You are not in the business of uploading, converting and presenting documents. Any time taken away from improving and maintaining your core product should be seen as lost time in your eyes.
About the author:
John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and cti software provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as WebsitePulse and Wayup.
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