By Carol Hildebrand
In the digital economy, great application design is vital to business success. Mobile devices, social media, and the cloud have fundamentally transformed information delivery and consumption, and in doing so they are among the driving forces in digital disruption. It’s become more important than ever to make that interaction as easy and productive as possible.
Users want on-demand information that’s easy and intuitive to use, regardless of the device or application.
Consumers and enterprise workers alike want on-demand information that’s presented in the kind of responsive, intuitive user interfaces found in popular consumer applications such as Facebook. At the same time, mobile and cloud technologies have given users unprecedented access to applications and information wherever and whenever they want.
“The demand for mobile applications is skyrocketing, and it’s triggered a huge change for IT organizations,” says Chris Tonas, vice president of mobility and developer tools and frameworks at Oracle. “The research I’ve seen shows that 90 percent of enterprise IT is building or releasing one or more mobile apps every six months. That’s quite a turnaround from the old days of taking two or three years to develop applications.”
Bottom line: As the importance of digital innovation grows, so too does the need to transform application design and development to satisfy this new business imperative. But how?
Building applications for the digital economy requires a modern user interface (UI) design system that is geared for this dramatically different business landscape. A modern UI design system can help IT teams build mobile applications that make customers happy, deliver those applications quickly, and make sure cross-channel applications maintain a coherent sense of usability.
Modern UI designs starts with a clear understanding that bad apps can drive customers away.
“Anybody who is paying attention realizes that you win by having great UIs first, and functionality second,” says Mike Mohageg, vice president of user experience and middleware platforms and products at Oracle. “People don’t want mobile applications that cram as much functionality on one screen as possible—they want to be able to do something simply and easily in a compact area, so you have to make it easy for them to accomplish discrete tasks.”
Anybody who is paying attention realizes that you win by having great UIs first and functionality second.
From there, it’s important to focus on usability and engaging UI design from a ‘mobile-first’ perspective—in other words, with the mobile device and user in mind. For example, designing for the many different form factors of smart phones and tablets requires a system that’s conducive to working in different screen widths, or makes it easy to set up elements in the UI that can be controlled with a simple touch of the screen. “You end up with a sparer, roomier layout with less density on the page,” says Mohageg.
Modern UI design is also about user engagement. More and more, consumers expect their mobile applications to deliver much more than static information. “Customers want to interact, not just read a feature list. They want to see the product and demo it to get a sense of how easy it is to use,” says Tonas. “The reality is, if you can’t deliver that, consumers will start eliminating your product from the purchasing decision—all based on UI.”
Modern UI design works best as part of a consistent cross-channel design strategy. Consumers often use multiple devices over the course of a purchasing process, and the UI needs to deliver a seamless look and feel across those various form factors and delivery mechanisms. They may use a native app on their phone and a browser-based app on the desktop, but each application must maintain certain visual coherency throughout. “They don’t necessarily need to be identical, but you want to leverage something called transfer of learning,” says Tonas. For example, if a touch gesture has a certain reaction in one app, you expect the same experience in another.
Find a system that delivers consistent UI design across platforms.
Icons are another important visual cue. “If you have a set of icons for user tasks on the laptop application but go to the tablet and find something completely different, that’s going to throw off your user and slow down their ability to get what they need,” says Tonas. Finding a system that delivers consistent UI design across platforms will go a long way towards building a consistent experience across applications.
A modern UI design system can strengthen customer relationships, help deliver applications faster, and build UX consistency with a cross-platform approach. Done right, it’s about more than good looks—it’s a chance to deliver greater business value through visual innovation.