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How to improve productivity through mobile UX design

IT has to deliver a high-quality user experience and provide a mobile-friendly workflow to get workers to buy into a mobile initiative. It all starts during app development.

The age of mobility is upon us and in full force! As consumers, we use our smartphones and tablets because they make our lives easier in countless ways. To enterprise leaders, this drive for personal efficiency is mirrored in the desire to teach their workforces how to improve productivity.

Mobility allows organizations to place endpoint devices and employees closer to their target markets and customers. The business benefits of going mobile are without question, so why are enterprises struggling with their implementations of mobile initiatives such as bring your own device (BYOD)?

Several factors could play into this struggle. If an enterprise doesn't have solid governance, standards and policies, then the mobile solutions will be unmanageable. If the architecture and infrastructure are not robust enough, then the entire system will fail.

The importance of mobile UX

Even if all of the other mobile management technologies and standards are in place and are best-of-breed, the success of any enterprise mobility initiative is dependent on user adoption. Corporations look to enterprise mobility for the same reasons that consumers install and uninstall mobile applications in mere seconds. Apps must meet a need, and they must provide a satisfying experience.

If I install an app to search a catalog and make a purchase from a retail store across town, yet the app delivers a horrible user experience (UX), then I have a choice to make. I can uninstall the app and go to another retailer's app, or I can drive across town, buy what I need, and give the store clerks an earful about the app.

Similarly, an enterprise could send out thousands of new mobile devices and provide a host of apps to empower its employees to reach new levels of sales or productivity. Its IT department could mandate that workers use the apps as part of their jobs.

Often, the deployed apps are really just screen scrapes and other stopgap variations of the enterprise's legacy desktop applications. These apps may lack a clean or elegant user interface that is designed specifically for the mobile platform, let alone the variety of hardware and operating system.

Thanks to the consumerization of IT, employees have the same expectations of a positive UX, regardless of whether they're using devices and apps for professional or personal purposes. In the example above, a business app that doesn't meet UX expectations will face declining interest and use, plus workarounds such as rogue apps.

For an enterprise to have a successful mobile ecosystem, its employees must want to use the mandated applications. If people don't want to use the apps, then they will use them only minimally and only to meet expectations at best. This is the same for employer-issued endpoints and for participants in BYOD programs.

The solution to this problem is to approach application development and deployment the same way you do when preparing a consumer app. Below are some investments and considerations to ensure smooth sailing in the face of the enterprise mobility sea change.

User experience analysis and design

The enterprise should hire, train or contract with a skilled mobile UX design team to research and document the behaviors and operations of its employee base. Having a complete understanding of how people work will allow the design team to build a user interface that doesn't disrupt those job functions.

Experienced mobile UX design professionals will create personas and use cases that can be matched to the right sets of application features and user interfaces. That way, IT can deploy a mobile app suite that provides a positive user experience, which encourages people to use the apps.

Agile, Scrum and Lean methodologies

Traditional product/project management methods just don't work in this rapidly changing mobile environment. Agile software development methodologies such as Scrum and Lean design allow the application development and product management teams to first come up with a minimum viable product that contains the essential, first-release features needed by the employee.

From there, a rapid release schedule of updates can be made every couple of weeks. Each update will be small, so users won't have to retool and relearn after each release, as they would in longer-cycled methodologies like the Waterfall model. Also, the update packet sizes are smaller, which helps in the dissemination across a larger, global network to reach the remote devices.

Mobile application performance monitoring

Deploying the best mobile apps successfully to your global employee base is one thing. Having them perform at optimum levels whenever needed is a completely different beast to manage. For example, just because an app works flawlessly in the lab and with 99.99% reliability in the U.S., the odds are much lower of it working that well in more remote countries.

The only way to know how well the apps are preforming is by implementing a mobile application performance monitoring system, which provides insights on how to improve productivity. It can tell you when and where an app is being used, what service bottlenecks have arisen, and when there are incidents of transaction call failures. Such tools can even pinpoint down to the section of code that could be causing a failure.

With this type of data, administrators can rapidly react to problems, and UX architects and app developers can have a better understanding of what needs to be changed in future releases.

Continuous improvement

Following good mobile UX design practices, using the Scrum or Lean design methodology, and understanding how well a mobile app is performing, will enable enterprises to continuously improve the user experience and utilization rates.

There are certainly other ways to encourage user adoption. Gamification, for instance, can really entice employees to discover new ways to use standard apps and even innovate.

With attention to some key application characteristics, an enterprise mobility program should provide employees with a positive experience that will foster new levels of satisfaction. And when employees are happy, they make customers happy, ultimately boosting the bottom line.

This was last published in January 2015

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We're also an advocate of professional mobile design. What's even more important, especially in the context of a SCRUM environment, is that the designer works closely with the rest of the team during all stages of mobile product development.
Most entrepreneurs neglect the importance of a streamlined process in which designers, developers, project manager and product owner collaborate during sketching/wireframing, while developing the user interface design or while working on the clickable prototype.
So yes, it cannont be stated strongly enough: integrate SCRUM into the whole cycle, especially after the app launch (when monitoring and continuous improvement should be a top priority).
UX is often seen as an afterthought, or if it is considered, it's done with an eye towards replicating workflows that already exist in traditional desktop or web apps, but with gestures to take advantage of the touch options. The fact that so many apps are developed with such a wide variety of approaches and conventions points to this. My suggestion: make accessibility standards a core part of system design, so that the broadest range of people will be able to use the products effectively. the knock off effect of that one change could be a tremendous boost in UX.
I second Michael. By many studies, about 20% of the total potential customer base has this or that disability, and the number will grow, considering aging population. Accessibility must be a part of the UX standard.