Article in Product Design UX UI category.

Why Business Tools Should be More Like Consumer Apps

If a company wants to create products with maximum adoption rates, it's important to know what businesses need to learn from consumer apps.

The business world is always scrambling to be the first to break the barrier into one new market or another. It’s no surprise that with technology and communication allowing the world to become more connected quicker, untapped markets are becoming scarce. That’s why there are as many articles about how to break into the Chinese market as there are business school courses being taught on how to solve the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) country puzzle. Even when a business is first to market in any particular industry, they too need to keep innovating new strategies to keep them ahead of their competition. Consumer applications and business tools, especially in a marketplace that is increasingly focused on SaaS (Software as a Service), have as little in common on the surface as two things possibly could. This is entirely wrong, and that’s why we’ve outlined some of the biggest things that businesses need to learn from consumer apps below.

Talk to Your Audience Like They’re People First, Users Second

Regardless of what they are writing, from journalists to speechwriters, all writers need to first consider their audience. All applications are built the same way. Just because there is an enterprise business tool that has wild popularity in a particular enterprise market, that doesn’t mean it has to be written like a user’s manual. Just because a company has a uniquely qualified group of users doesn’t mean that they don’t also like to be spoken to like humans every now and then. Taking cues from business tools like Slack is a great way to see how to balance complicated functionality with an approachable sensibility. Slack is a company that has balanced the tech-heavy process of integrating a myriad of communications tools into a single unified platform while utilizing clever microcopy at every step. Doing this makes communication more accessible, which in turn leads to higher engagement and a happier user-base.

Design for Frictionless Use

One of the reasons that some successful consumer apps have become so popular is that barriers to entry have become incredibly low. By taking cues from the precedent set by Apple’s first iOS interface — UI focused on intuitive feature discovery — app developers are empowering users from across the spectrum of tech-literacy to engage with their products. The founders of Airbnb recognized the importance of simplicity and, with their backgrounds as graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, were able to create a platform for hosts and guests that is inclusive and easily adopted. Business tools that perform functions at a massive scale shouldn’t require a Computer Science degree or a suspiciously high level of comfort with pivot tables in order to operate them. In fact, it’s a commonly held understanding in product development that building design into the process as an afterthought results in increased costs and lowered results of the effort. It’s always more effective to think in a design-first mentality, even when the business tool you’re building is a requirement for any particular sector. Resting on the assurance that the value of a SaaS product alone will ensure its long-term success is simply an invitation for your competitors to introduce the same product with improvements to the interface.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Once you have some of the key ideas in place for building a new application to revolutionize your industry, it’s prudent to ask yourself how much bandwidth you have to deliver on time and on budget. It’s one thing to identify the business opportunity for a product and engineer a solution, it’s entirely another to convert that vision and purpose into a glossy, buzz-worthy application with your internal resources. Once you’ve got the right pieces in place and you can bring a product to market that has all of the power of your enterprise solution with none of the clutter or jargon that only makes sense to the hardest of hardcore users. And who knows, maybe you’ll actually have something that we’ll be looking to next time for inspiration.

By Dan Quick, Senior Content Strategist at VirtualPBX

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