ISVs spend a lot of time and effort in creating the IP and product feature roadmap, choosing right technology, applying best in class architecture and finding the right UI designer. Once the product goes live, customers feel the product has all the required features and that the UI looks cool. But when they start using the product, they feel that it takes longer time to complete a particular task since searching for data becomes difficult and thus they have to start working on the task all over again. This is the case with most of the products and these issues have to be addressed in order to make the product user friendly, else the competitor will take advantage. So it is important that software product companies look at re-engineering the user experience of the product based on the users’ feedbacks.
Typically, customers look for products that offer as much intuitiveness as the features do. Here are two scenarios where usability re-engineering needs to be considered.
1. When an investment is made on the new technologies like cloud, mobile and Big Data for product technology upgrade, it is important that its usability is re-engineered as user experience re-design will bring the optimal return on the investment.
2. When product goes into the decline state, it needs to go through the usability re-engineering process so that the customers’ expectations that are aligned towards the current market trends are met.
Usability is a characteristic of user experience which focuses on how the information is organized, structured and presented to the user. In the usability re-engineering process, focus is on improving the usability of the software by analysing the current product and benchmarking the existing design against the current market trends like distributed cloud environment, new technologies, mobility, new usability standards like SPA, RWD, Visualization of information, Context driven flows, and so on.
Any usability re-engineering project has to go through the following activities:
Gap analysis –> Information architecture –>Wireframes -> Click thru prototype design and development- > Code implementation -> Testing and go-Live
Let us look at some of the best practices that we need to consider for usability re-engineering with focus on Information Architecture and UI design.
Information architecture is a key phase of usability engineering since this phase focuses on how the user’s goal of completing a task is designed and defined. The product on reaching the mature state needs to meet the customer’s expectations based on newer trends like context based results and navigation, federated search, real-time dashboards, visual representation of data, assistance tools for new users, information available on multiple device and form factor and so on. To re-design the information and work flow, the product needs to go through the information re-architecture process where an information architect is deployed on understanding the current systems and its gaps with respect to the user’s new goals and information data presentation trends. The architect, after defining the new information architecture, he prototypes the same with wireframes using the latest wireframe tools.
In most of the companies, the information architecture role is being played by UI designer and this approach has not been successful. This role has to be played by Information Architects only for successful re-architecture. Also when re-architecting, the Information Architect should work closely with the development team to ensure that new architecture does not result in major re-coding effort. The new information should retain the existing flow context or business process and consider the usability aspect of social networking sites or ecommerce sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, and so on. When it comes to information the following trends need to be considered.
· Personalized Dashboard : Any user would like to have a personalized dashboard so that he can look at the list of tasks that he need to complete, history of his previous tasks, other information related to the task he is working on and so on.
· Every user wants to complete the task without too many clicks or navigation and information needs be handled effectively to support the Single Page application design.
· Search and information exploration should be based on the user context. The users expectation, now-a-days is “minimum input and maximum information”
· Information Anywhere: Information needs to be accessible by user anywhere anytime and hence the design needs to be considered on what relevant data to be shown in mobile, tablet, smart tv or smart watches
· Users have got accustomed to usability trends in social media and user expects the same trends to be available in the product.
· Customers’ behaviour analysis needs to be done by talking to the actual users as their expectation will change over a period time.
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