There is a misconception that business must be serious, uninteresting and, to an extent, sterile. Certainly, when it comes to business applications there are plenty of tools that lack the engagement to go with their functionality. While you might think that this functionality is the be all and end all, in reality a boring application can be hugely damaging in terms of staff productivity.

[easy-tweet tweet=”One of the ways that business applications sometimes fall short is by having a poor user interface, or UI”]

Boring by design

One of the ways that business applications sometimes fall short is by having a poor user interface, or UI, and there are a number of reasons behind this. Firstly, the nature of business apps means that developers spend the majority of their time and resources focusing on the required corporate features – meaning that design can take a backseat. When time is tight and budgets even tighter, getting businesses to invest money in creating a more engaging UI can be a tough sell.

However, recent research suggests that companies may be missing a trick by creating difficult and uninspiring applications. Businesses with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 per cent and workplace applications play a major role in fostering this engagement.

“Often, corporate applications fail to generate the employee engagement levels hoped for, particularly if a cross-platform solution is chosen to cut costs and achieve faster delivery,” explained Matthew Jones of shinobicontrols. “This forces useful features to be sacrificed, or worse, completely overlook user experience. This impacts not only employee productivity when using the app, but also their willingness to engage in its future use. Thankfully, the tide is changing. Organisations are realising that if employee engagement is a priority, the only option is native.”

Although, UI and app development in general may ultimately have to conform to the company’s bottom line, it is important businesses are not overly myopic during the app development process. A more engaging UI may cost more in the short term, but if it helps to generate a more creative and inspired workforce, then it will certainly prove to be money well spent.

Another reason why business applications can fail to inspire their users is because, unlike consumer-grade applications, it may not be possible for employees to switch to a competitor app if the user interface is a hindrance. Even with the rise of shadow IT, there is much less incentive for developers of business apps to spend time on the UI. After all, if there is only one application that enables you to input holiday requests, then employees will continue to use it no matter how badly it is designed.

A more engaging UI may cost more in the short term, but if it helps to generate a more creative and inspired workforce, then it will certainly prove to be money well spent

In order to overcome poorly designed business applications, organisations need to ask themselves some key questions. Firstly, do your developers have the required skills to design business-grade applications with consumer-grade user interfaces? If not, it may be time to call in outside help. Secondly, are employees utilising corporate applications to their fullest? If they are not, then productivity is sure to take a hit.

Gamification

Another way that businesses are making their applications more engaging is by embracing gamification. Crucially, this is not about turning your business apps into games – it simply refers to using game design elements to make them more interesting and engaging.

There are a variety of ways that businesses can incorporate gamification into their business applications. Creating an online social community, for example, has enabled users to feel more invested in the games they are playing and the same principle is now being applied to work-based apps. Creating a collaborative platform where users can discuss the app, share materials and access a shared knowledge base is a great way of boosting engagement.

Similarly, not many games simply throw players in at the deep end without any form of help. Instead, they include training session and manuals to help with those first steps. Likewise, applications must provide assistance to users, whether in the form of elearning, quizzes or other targeted coaching resources. Another aspect being borrowed from games is employee rewards. By meeting pre-defined goals and tracking progress, staff can receive recognition in the form of points or virtual achievements. This also provides a clear overview of who is using the corporate tools and to what extent.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Business apps must provide assistance to users, in the form of elearning, quizzes or other coaching resources”]

Business applications have long had a reputation for being functional, but largely forgettable. However, organisations are now starting to realise that this approach can cause issues, particularly in the long term. By embracing gamification and other features associated with consumer software, business apps are starting to become far more engaging, both in terms of their design and utility.