We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know your users first before you start to design your application. Taking the time to understand how they do their job and what they need to do is the only way you can design an application that they can use.
Equally as important as it is to know your users is to know what the business requirements are for your application. Each user is typically part of a larger whole in which they all contribute to the success of the company. By understanding the bigger picture, as well as the individual user's needs you will be able to easily identify and create an application that achieves a successful connection between ROI and real-world ease of use for the user and the company.
Once you understand the user and business goals, it is important to set usability goals for the applications to be used as a benchmark for product acceptance. Usability goals provide both qualitative and quantitative information, which identifies how well the enterprise application is accepted by the user population. Measuring usability not only improves product quality, processes, and user acceptance, but also contributes to the success of your business goals.
Your user research and analysis work should provide you with the following information essential for good design:
Stakeholders are the people who will say whether or not the project is successful. It is important to speak to each and every one of them, if possible. This is your opportunity to ensure the goals and needs for the business is aligned with their user's goals and motivations. During these interviews, you will want to learn and think about how these new applications will benefit both the end user's and the business.
Stakeholders may include:
Once you clearly identify the business needs for an application, it's time to do a little research to determine that the users are able to accomplish their goals and objectives. You need to determine who they are, what they do, what their individual goals are, and how to measure their interaction with the application--to ensure they are achieving their goals.
Knowing your users in the changing workplace is essential to creating implementation solutions. Get to know your users by listening to their needs and observing them in their work spaces.
Understanding what motivates your users will help you define the usability goals for your enterprise applications. For example, the users may want to be able to perform their tasks with fewer errors and more efficiency using the enterprise application.
Engage and involve the users throughout the design process to ensure you're creating designs that meet their needs.
Users cannot always articulate their needs. By observing the users in the context of their work environment, you can learn what they are trying to accomplish and the processes they use to do so. Observe, understand and analyze what they need to do to get their job done.
Users have their own incentives and motivations to perform their jobs. User goals define the motivation users have to use the system. By identifying and setting usability goals for the users of your application you will be able to measure whether or not the application is achieving success.
For example, you could measure the accuracy and efficiency of a user's tasks by using a current version of the application. During the design phase, these results can be compared by testing the same tasks using the new version of the application. These usability goals can be further broken down into things like identifying the number of errors in using the application or identifying the unproductive attempts in completing a task (really focusing on the pain points experienced).
Once you know what a user needs to do, the motivations for doing it, and the requirements for the job, you can begin to design the application.