Consumer Design for the Enterprise

March 21, 2012 • 2 minutes to read

Take your phone out of your pocket and look at the home screen. Open up your favorite app. Click around the settings. Jump to another task.

Now... Try using your enterprise time tracking portal, meeting organizer, or knowledgebase.

Holding "enterprise" software to a different design standard than consumer products is no longer acceptable. The smartphone revolution has fundamentally changed what people expect from technology products. People have been illuminated to an elegant, efficient technology experience that won't stand for anything less.

When product managers or procurement officers say, "Design isn't important. It's for the enterprise, " they're saying, "I think you're a sucker or impotent and I'm going to abuse you." They've acknowledged that they're choosing an inferior product that is painful and unpleasant to use because the end user's well-being isn't important to them.

I have news for you. People won't stand for it. Employees at enterprise organizations are already reaching into their own pockets to pay for tools that ease the pain of their daily work. 37 Signals posted a fascinating article about their penetration into the Fortune 500. IT Managers aren't sanctioning the use of a cloud-based consumer product. This is normal for people who need to get shit done and need better tools to do it.

It's not just application tools. People are also paying for an iPhone or Android phone to replace the blackberry that have been foisted on them. They crave the simplicity and power of these platforms over the clumsy and inflexible legacy tools. People are people regardless if they're working or playing.

It's not just the aesthetics of enterprise tools that trip people up. 90% of good design is efficiency and clarity. Enterprise tools routinely violate hick's law and the Pareto principle. Simple organizing the tools within these products will make an impact. Good design is a competitive advantage in the enterprise marketplace just as it is in the consumer marketplace. Making enterprise tools pleasant and efficient to use can only behoove us through productivity gains and employee engagement.