Introducing new apps in a running operation or onboarding new staff is one of the worst nightmares for any business. Performance is directly tied to how efficiently and accurately teams use any tool and changing that will always face justifiable resistance.
While there is no way to completely eliminate that anxiety, I’ve tried to compile a list of user experience practices that make the most difference in helping new users learn mission critical tools quickly. None of them are wavy background, glass morphism or parallax scrolling, these are real meaningful changes to user experience that help operations run faster and smoother.
What matters most when using applications professionally, is communication between the system and the user. Users need to feel comfortable with the system and need to be able to easily predict how applications will behave even if they are using features and functions for the first time.
- Reconfirm actions
When careers depend on using applications correctly, new and sometimes even experienced users shy away from something as simple as tapping a button. To help reduce the anxiety of clicking a ‘one way trip’ button, it’s always a good idea to have an additional pop up that reconfirms users’ choices.
When sifting through large amounts of data and performing destructive actions, it’s extremely common to accidentally click the wrong item so a second dialog is really helpful in letting someone double check their action. Sometimes an additional alert can even help prevent accidental clicks, which are far more common on laptop and phone users who use touch based inputs like trackpads and touch screens.
2. Stop giving useless warnings
Adding additional alerts to check in with users about the action they’re about to perform helps, but alert messages like ‘are you sure you want to perform this action’ are pretty much entirely useless. Good UI should always help users clearly understand what they are exactly interacting with.
For example, imagine a post-pandemic retail store that offers ‘pick up in store’. If a store staff member can’t find inventory for a pick up order, they’re supposed to ‘reject’ or ‘cancel’ that order. But because this action has implications that affect system inventory, and notifies customers about their order, getting store staff comfortable with using this function is difficult. No one wants to be responsible for a lost sale.
Milestone actions that have larger implications, like canceling an order that cannot be fulfilled, become far more approachable by giving additional explanations in plain English about the full scope and ripple effects of the action they’re performing.
3. Contextual call to actions
Generic button labels like ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Submit’, ‘Accept’ can often create more confusion than clarity. Instead, try using verbs or adjectives that are self explanatory and related to the action being performed. This helps users stay in context of their workflow without having to double check themselves.
For example if a button is going to prepare an order for a customer to pick up in store, don’t use ‘continue’ or ‘proceed’. Instead, try something like “ready for pick up” which is self explanatory and requires little to no extra thinking by the user.
4. Anticipate confusion and add helpful blurbs
Professional apps, especially in retail, have a revolving door of users. Training tries to cover most use cases but good user experience should anticipate processes that can be ambiguous and try to proactively add more clarity to them. This is usually not a problem in consumer apps because they are usually lower stakes and don’t have complex business processes woven into them.
Something as simple as a universally recognized ‘information’ icon can go a long way in helping users quickly get details about background processes that help in using an application in an informed manner.
For example, merchandisers have to deal with hundreds or thousands of pre orders on a seasonal basis and it’s very important to them that orders are shipped in a particular order. So to make sure they fully understand how their actions are interpreted by an application, an ‘information’ button lets them quickly access that unique knowledge at anytime.
5. Clean up small phone interfaces with overflow menus
Enterprise apps that support detailed and complex processes can very quickly become overrun with buttons on their interface. This is the primary challenge in making applications approachable for new users, giving them something to focus on and not creating a sensory overload.
The best way to have your cake and eat it, is to try and find buttons that are repetitive, create “global” level buttons for them and offer them on items as “overflow” menus. This lets users retain granular control over large sets of data while keeping interfaces relatively un-cluttered.
Creating a safe environment, where users completely understand their surroundings is one of the fastest ways to reduce resistance from users who can’t afford to make mistakes when using these applications for their daily jobs.
Simple changes like easily understandable descriptions and reconfirmation safe guards, grouping repetitive buttons into overflow menus, and having contextual confirmation and dismissive buttons are often all that’s needed to make an application more user friendly.