The first step in starting your digital transformation is to define which applications need to be built. But before you go too far down that road, be sure to consider who will be using your apps. It doesn’t matter if your application has external or internal facing users; it’s their opinions that will determine the app’s level of adoption and therefore success. By including UX in the start phase of your digital transformation, you can ensure an important measure of success is accounted for.
We recognize that many organizations lack a sufficient amount of UX resources, and we have written about solutions to that challenge here. For those that do have UX resources, there is a lot to be gained from integrating UX early on in the process. The four big areas that are impacted include:
- Creating apps that resonate with your target users
- Creating an innovative development team
- Avoiding as much rework for all team members
- Getting stakeholders approval faster
A user experience designer’s primary role is to understand the needs and wants of an application or suite of application’s end users. They juggle those requirements alongside the IT needs and business goals to help shape the form of the application. Involving UX professionals early in the process will help ensure an application is tailored to fit the needs of the end users as much as possible. They will make sure that the functionality and information visible to the user is relevant and easy to use.
However, having UX professionals involved early on is not enough. It is also important to consider how UX professionals are integrated into the development team. If you ask any traditional developer what it is like to work with a designer, you will likely get some degree of animosity. With Mendix’s rapid application development approach, there is a golden opportunity to quickly create applications that deliver the intended user and business benefits. The key to this success is to remove department silos and have an integrated approach between IT, business, and end-user needs. By creating mutual respect and ongoing collaboration between all parties, the iterative progress of developing an application can be much smoother and can enable your team to be more innovative.
Embedding UX professionals in your development team from the start allows for the facilitation of conversations on what a user will need to see and when. The needs of the end user can very easily influence the entities and attributes within the domain model, so including UX early on will help ensure that this is integrated and help minimize rework for both designer and developers.
Another benefit of including UX early on is being able to implement the User Interface sooner. The UI of an application is a by-product of mapping out and organizing the needs of the end users with respect to brand guidelines. The UI is a collection of functional and visual patterns by which we perceive to be the UX of an application. Functional patterns are as simple as checkbox input fields, or more complex like a wizard or new account creation. By visual patterns, I’m referring to the colors, fonts, and spacing between elements that make the app looks like it belongs to a specific brand. The sooner the UI is integrated into the development of an application, the sooner it will make it easier for everyone to better appreciate the functional development.
The points above are great reasons to integrate UX at the start of any project, but the work completed on one project can also serve as an investment for future apps. The two major areas where the early involvement of UX can make a large impact are in developing a design system and iterating on the understanding of your end users.
It is not uncommon once the first application is built that more developers and designers join the team. As your team grows it’s important to maintain consistent UX across applications. You can leverage the UX and UI patterns from a previous project to form the foundation of a company-specific design system. The value of a design system is that it provides the how, when, and why to use the UI patterns. This design system can be documented through the use of a Living Style Guide (LSG). You can learn more about living style guides in this webinar (look up link). In tandem with building out an LSG, Atlas UI enables you to create and distribute a company-specific pattern library that packages up functional patterns into building blocks and page templates that can be reused across applications.
Just as you iterate when developing an application, the iteration of your design system will happen as more applications are developed and new UX patterns are created and added to the LSG. Along with the iteration of the design system, the more applications are tested with real users, the more the preexisting patterns can be updated to reflect and match their needs. By completing usability testing you can better understand what your end users need in order to accomplish their tasks more efficiently.
All in all, the sooner UX is integrated into the development lifecycle, the more iterations and refinements can be made to better fit the needs of your end users and produce a higher quality application. So, whether it’s an application for use by internal employees enabling them to be more efficient and productive, or creating new loyal customer to your brand, adding UX to the start phase of your digital transformation will only lead to happier users, higher adoption, and more satisfied business stakeholders.
For insight on other areas of how to get started with digital transformation, download the Digital Execution Starter Guide.