The Intersection of Enterprise Apps and User Experience

12 09 2012

Organizations are adopting mobile as a prominent customer interaction channel.  Yet, developing and testing mobile apps is not an easy proposition. With limited screen size, mobile platforms present a unique challenge to developers. It is necessary to develop a robust enterprise mobile app with a functional user experience.

Unlike the desktop – where unused pixels often become jumbles of extraneous content – the mobile experience necessitates design simplicity.

When designing a mobile experience, it is not enough to scale down existing desktop applications. Mobile enterprise apps need to be thought of differently – the comparison between desktop and mobile apps should stop at the idea that both focus on what the end-user needs to achieve.

Consider the difference between interacting via a mouse and keyboard, and using a touch-screen for navigation. How about a website versus its mobile version?

Long-winded text or data entry is fine on a desktop with a browser. To require the same amount of effort while a user operates a shopping app in the middle of a crowded grocery store is to guarantee a bad user experience.

Developing a mobile app for the enterprise means breaking the experience down into its essential parts. Developers must consider what employees or other end-users need and answer with the most efficient way of achieving those goals by taking advantage of the capabilities mobile devices offer.

Location-based services and video are just some of the many innovations available to developers. If the essential way to send information to a client is to photograph a barcode, incorporate that feature into the app.

Though, if an app designed to provide easy-to-follow baking instructions continues to ask users for their locations, then it will become unnecessarily frustrating. The built-in tools on mobile devices can be used effectively but their strengths can easily spell the demise of an overzealous app.

Because of the size constraint and the litany of features available to developers, mobile devices can be double-edged swords. But if leveraged appropriately, the features mobile phones offer can help define a strong user experience.

Developing an efficient user experience is only the first step. Just as developing a piece of software precludes it from being released without proper quality assurance, developing a mobile app – that users do not have the time or bandwidth to update constantly – without ensuring its functionality first is a sure way to provide a bad user experience.

An app developed under the constraints of mobile functionality and screen sizes needs to be tested within the same parameters. Much like testing a desktop app requires quality assurance from mouse clicks to window resizing, the testing of a mobile app needs to include button presses and screen swipes.

As a QA manager tests desktop applications using a desktop computer, a mobile QA manager should test mobile apps using actual devices. This ensures the user experience testing is captured accurately through the eyes of the user.

Mobile platforms have opened a new world of possibilities – and constraints – to enterprise app developers. Ensuring the customer can effectively use mobile apps is a critical component of the customer experience. Developing and testing mobile apps with the customer in mind will help ensure businesses achieve intelligent mobile user experiences.

About the Author

Leila Modarres is the Head of Marketing at Keynote DeviceAnywhere which offers mobile app lifecycle management solutions. Visit www.keynotedeviceanywhere.com for more details.

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