As we continue doing business in the midst of the digital economy, mobile apps are becoming critical tools for companies seeking to mobilize and optimize key business processes. And although functionality of these apps is of utmost importance, the visual experience plays a larger role, too, which is why this is the year for bridging the design gap between enterprise and consumer apps.

The consumerization of IT is rapidly changing the enterprise technology landscape. And to meet these changes, it falls partly on UI/UX designers (like yours truly) to forge a middle ground between enterprise apps and consumer apps.

The theme you’ll hear from any blogpost on the consumerization of IT is that everyone in your organization uses a mobile device both in their personal and professional lives: everyone is a consumer.

The users are the same, but the processes and purposes are different. Yet, it’s a solid guarantee that Warehouse Joe experiences a much sleeker, more visually interesting, and intuitive interface when he’s slashing pixelated fruit on his lunch break than when he’s out on the floor preparing shipments with his mobile device.

Out of necessity, enterprise apps have been built to get the job done. In the enterprise app hierarchy, function sits squarely over form. When building an enterprise app, the first question is: what do you need to get done? For example, “I need my driver to update orders from the field.” What we might commonly see to address that task is the barest amount of information and a blank data entry field squashed in the left hand corner over a white background.

When a user sees that screen without prior training, they get the same look on their face that my dog does when I ask for a handshake. His face says, “I love you, but I don’t know what you want me to do here.” As a UI/UX designer, the last thing you want your app to invoke is this quizzical stare with head cocked to the side.

The last thing you want your app to invoke is the quizzical stare with head cocked to the side

By embracing some of the strengths of consumer apps, UI/UX designers in the enterprise can create smart designs that are functional and tailored to specific business processes. When I say well designed, I’m looking for specific criteria. A well-designed app shows intention put into the design; it’s intuitive, if not instructional. On the surface, it should be visually impressive, but inside, it should not only be powerful, it should also make work and processes easier and more efficient.

Users are now accustomed to visual elements and high-class visual design in consumer apps, but the apps must also be thoughtful and relevant to the task at hand. You might even make the argument that this sort of relevance is sometimes more important in an enterprise app, since these mobile solutions are likely enabling a business-related process and can be a critical problem-solving tool.

The million-dollar question is, of course, how do we achieve this balance? At DSI, we use a comprehensive discovery process to gather business requirements, goals, and long-term strategies. Once we know exactly what information and processes our users need, we can build a visually engaging, agile app that meets current needs and can be quickly scaled to accommodate future business growth and change.

What strategies are you using to bridge the gap between enterprise and consumer apps? Leave a comment below to join the conversation.

 

Image of Japanese bridge courtesy Shutterstock.

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