How to build great mobile apps

Companies don’t need highly complex software to create great mobile experiences. They just need focus on what people need to get their jobs done.

mobile app design
  • Organizations need to bring design principles to enterprise app creation
  • Modular design systems and flexible platforms make app development easier
  • For best results, use an iterative process with lots of user testing

The stark divide between easy‑to‑use consumer software and clunky enterprise tools is causing a lot of grumbling in cubicles these days.

Workers today want simple, intuitive tools that give them the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime. Yet a survey commissioned by employee portal provider Sapho found that 75% of workers struggle to find information in enterprise systems. Only 13% describe the apps they use at work as “elegant.” Even worse, 45% of 36‑ to 45‑year olds say they would consider quitting their job over hard‑to‑use software.

Using enterprise software shouldn’t be rocket science. Businesses should focus on creating regular software for regular people and mobile experiences that are based on user behavior. Workers shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for things. Things should come looking for them.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for organizations to bring design principles to IT.

Creating truly intuitive and frictionless experiences for key enterprise tools can help flatten organizations and give people more autonomy. The result is that work becomes more engaging and purposeful.

Democratize Design

Bringing design into IT organizations can be hard. Good UX designers are in high demand. Projects that require design often need development skills that are in short supply.

But there’s an emerging trend—the advent of modular design systems and platforms that enable rapid application development—that IT organizations should tap into as they seek to design valuable, easy‑to‑use services. As software becomes more malleable, iterative prototyping can help you achieve great outcomes.

Teams in IT are learning to tap these service design practices, helping to understand the problem at hand through simple qualitative research and identifying where they can have the most impact. Armed with new platforms that enable change at low cost, they can shift their focus to what to build over how to build it.

This enables a whole new approach to mobile design. IT teams are now able to make things quickly, learn a little bit about the user, build something, go back to the user for feedback and modify what they’ve built based on that feedback. As they repeat the process, they keep learning and refining their design through each iteration. This process allows teams within IT to focus on the humans they are serving over the technical aspects of delivering features and functions.

Getting started with mobile app design

IT teams should start by having conversations with users about what’s truly useful for them.  Context and frequency of use matter. Enterprises tend to have a wide variety of roles that affect how various workers interact with different software services.

IT teams need to care deeply about out who their users are, how they work, and where they sit in the organization. Some people spend a large part of their day in a specific application and become experts at it. For them, a tool‑rich experience makes sense. Some applications lend themselves to less frequent use. Their design must be simple and help guide the user.

In mobile, the user experience needs to be even more tailored to specific roles and to each worker’s needs. Consumer mobile applications recognize location, past behavior and other relevant information. Smart enterprise design pairs these capabilities with the right use case.

Features should be customized for each employee’s specific role. Field service workers need every job to be pinpointed on a map with turn by turn driving directions. Managers need tasks and approvals front and center.

The employee experience of the future will be a primary differentiator for organizations as they seek to attract and retain top talent. And that experience will be influenced and shaped by their interaction with software. How difficult is the onboarding experience when they join a company? How easy is it to transition in and out of family leave? Do the tools allow workers to receive feedback in a way that supports their development?

Software shows up in each of these moments, and the design of software is critical to the overall experience. The best companies will understand that they need to deliver tools to get things done and also reduce friction to support people so they can do their best work.

Ultimately, workers shouldn’t have to adapt to enterprise tools—technology should adapt intelligently to them. Enterprise software is no longer only about making existing work more efficient. The opportunity is for software is to transform work itself.