“Enterprises are finally facing the reality that business users expect the same quality of experience as consumers.” – Jerry Chao, Content Strategist at UXPin.
The way we perceive and interact with technology is constantly changing. The bar for superior and rich User Experience (UX) keeps getting raised, as do users’ expectations. People expect apps and systems to be simple and easy—they don’t want to overthink how to perform a simple task. And they get easily frustrated when they have to struggle with awkward interactions, which decrease productivity. As a result of this dynamic technology revolution, it is very hard for companies to be updated. With aging technology and outdated legacy systems, many organizations are struggling with accessibility and usability. Also, nowadays, consumers and business users are expecting the same kinds of experiences. UX updating and modernization refer to redesigning the user-facing elements of a legacy system or application, making sure that a newly refreshed system provides better access to information and enables users to perform effectively and efficiently. The user’s experience should be a top consideration during any modernization project.
The business case for UX updates during modernization
When bringing your systems up to date, if you don’t update the user’s experience along with it, the business value you’re creating could be lost. UX is very important, especially for redesigning a legacy system, because it directly impacts the way people work and helps them navigate new technologies. Designing a strong user experience involves a deep understanding of users’ needs and behaviors, as well as the organization’s business goals. For enterprise applications, that means understanding how a predetermined set of users performs specific tasks in order to reach an objective. Enterprise UX is all about finding easier paths for users to accomplish objectives and simultaneously advance business goals.
Designing with the way users work in mind improves both performance and effectiveness, generating real value for the organization. Efficiency can be quantified using by measuring task success, which incorporates a broad scope of metrics for assessing users’ actions, e.g., how well the task is completed, the time required, amount of errors incurred.
Focusing on users’ needs will add to the value of modernization efforts by providing greater reliability and scalability. Research from Forrester shows that, on average, every dollar invested in a UX update brings 100 in return. That’s an ROI of 9,900%.
Another important reason to include a UX update in a legacy system modernization is to improve the system accessibility. Building accessibility into the experience enables people with certain disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with a system or app. This means that we need to design for a diverse set of users that are going to interact with the system. It is important to include people who are blind, color blind, or have low vision, also those who are deaf, people with mobility impairments, and cognitive disabilities.
Usability is the degree of ease with which systems and applications can be used to achieve required goals with effectiveness. Companies and organizations need to realize the enormous value of how a modernized user experience improves productivity and positively impacts business goals.
UX update processes and challenges
Redesigning a legacy system or app can present many different challenges; changes will need to be made, and changes are never easy. Some legacy systems have been around for a long time, perhaps before user experience design was even a consideration, and people who use them can be stuck in their ways. Here are some guiding principles for a successful UX update and modernization:
1. Communicate the value of UX updates
Often, our consultants work with clients who are not familiar at all with UX. Because UX is such an essential part of any system modernization, it is very important to explain the value of UX to all stakeholders, to outline best practices and typical deliverables, and, most importantly, to make the client and team feel involved in the process. Inviting stakeholders to participate in the design activities, exchanging ideas, and soliciting feedback generate a collaborative mood that is beneficial for everyone. It is important to find solutions together.
2. Take the lean road to a modern UX
We can define Lean UX as a set of principles that are useful to guide the team to better and more effective solutions for users. Lean UX aims to reduce inefficiencies and provide value. Essentially, it combines the solution-based approach of design thinking with the iterative methods that make up Agile. One of the most important aspects of Lean UX is collaboration.
3. Foster cross-disciplinary collaboration
Collaborative design is an approach that encourages stakeholders, developers, designers, marketers, etc. to design together. This helps different teams build a shared understanding of both the design problem and the solution. Collaboration yields better results than individual, hero-based design. It allows many members of the team to articulate their ideas and gives designers a much broader set of ideas to draw upon as they refine the design. This approach is very inclusive and makes everybody feel part of the process so that there is less resistance to change and a faster learning curve.
4. Iterate with purpose
Redesigning a legacy system is going to involve plenty of changes: you have to take into account that many users are extremely familiar with their current systems. They are used to scrolling in certain places, navigating in specific sections, and clicking the same calls to action every time they use the system. That’s why we should not overwhelm users with a massive UX update or redesign plan launched all at once. It’s very important to go slowly and prioritize the most important parts of the system: the parts that will create more value for the business and users when redesigned. Once you start redesigning, it is crucial to test at an early stage and collect feedback. Instead of testing the design of a whole system, it is better and less overwhelming for users to test individual sections or parts of the app. Then you can build on top of it using the feedback you’ve earned.
5. Share the vision
In consulting, we realize that cultivating positive energy is the key to any successful IT project. It’s important to communicate a commitment to the design vision, build relationships with users, stakeholders, and developers, and be willing to bring people along slowly. Gaining trust is important. Once you obtain that trust, you can hold on to it by breaking your design vision into small parts that people can appreciate without feeling overwhelmed. If you think you’re behind the curve, or you’re just hearing about UX, you’re not alone: UX is still new to 1/3 of the established companies that participated in the recent Enterprise UX Industry Report.However, awareness is growing, and user expectations keep evolving, so don’t make design an afterthought. UX must be considered at the start of any modernization project, so that each piece of the system is developed with the end-user in mind, resulting in a more seamless experience. While modernizing the user-facing aspects of a legacy system can be full of challenges, change is totally possible. Create a collaborative environment, make both users and clients feel involved, and go slowly, piece-by-piece, with a UX update and redesign. Enjoy the design journey. The results are well worth the risk.