Software and user interface (UI) re-engineering can be an expensive proposition, or it can be affordable, timely and successful. The end result is up to you. But, if you really want to do it right, you will need to consider the following factors and ensure that any advice or consultation you request comes from an expert in user interface design and software re-engineering.
Software interface redesign and usability improvement and re-engineering should consider the following factors:
1. The interface should be intuitive and ‘invisible’. In other words, it should satisfy the user needs and the way a user will expect to find and use information – without requiring the user to change the way they think or how they search for or use information. That means you have to understand your user and customer needs, the technical skills and experience of your users and customers and how they need to use the software to get what they want quickly and easily.
2. Stay ahead of the curve by looking or trends and patterns that tell you what consumers and employees expect. Today’s customers and employees are used to seeing information in a certain way and, if you decide to create something totally new, it is likely to result in a decline in the use of your software. Don’t try to be too creative at the expense of usability. Instead, capitalize on what your customers and users have learned by using social media sites or other business applications, B2B or B2C solutions and software. Don’t make them learn something new that is confusing or complicated.
3. Choose a look and feel and a navigational flow and stick to it. Don’t ‘change horses in mid-stream’. Once your users have figured out how to use your software, you don’t want to change how the works from one function to another or from one module to another. Keep it simple and predictable and your clients will be happy.
4. Think carefully about the ‘common workflows’ within the user interface, and create one or more ‘main thoroughfares’ and default actions that will carry the user from step one through the final step with a smooth flow and intuitive next steps and confirmations along the way.
5. Use your content, logos and images to direct the user to the next step and to make it easier for them to find the feature or function they need to complete a transaction or to print a report or chat with a representative online. Don’t hide things, or give the users so many choices that they become confused. At the same time, be sure that there is always a way for them to navigate back to where they need to be or to move forward and take an action simply and easily.
6. Provide a way for your tech savvy users to get where they are going easily without having to use a cumbersome step-by-step process that is designed for less skilled users. Shortcuts, keyboard functions and other ways to skip steps and tasks will make your sophisticated users happy.
7. Don’t use ‘tech speak’ or terms a user may not understand. Use vocabulary and terms that the average user can follow to get to where they want to go. Complex terminology or content will only discourage the user from ever using your software or application again.
8. Let your users know what is going on. If the system is ‘thinking’ don’t display a page of content without telling the user that an action or task is in progress. If there is an error or problem with navigation, be sure that the user knows what is happening. If and when they complete an action (like ordering a product, entering data, or printing a report), send them back to a logical place and/or provide a confirmation message that tells them their action was completed successfully.
This article is, by no means, a complete listing of all user interface redesign and software re-engineering factors and considerations, but it will serve as a primer of concerns and issues you must consider in order to successfully review and re-imagine the interface for a software solution or application. The key to success in any UI design or redesign lies in the involvement of UI experts and designers who truly understand current UI best practices and can create a solution that will be flexible enough to accommodate the ever-changing world of technology users and adapt to their expectations and skills.