Does Enterprise software have to be boring?

In the back of my mind I am thinking about the old apple commercial that talked about the differences between Mac’s and PC and that PC only came in beige.

(Ok so a quick search on YouTube found it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKjWmSOesPA )

Why is enterprise software so beige? Or so boring?

Wikipedia states: “Enterprise software, is software used in organizations, such as in a business or government,as opposed to software used by individuals.”

But ultimately isn’t the software still used by people? Who are the “End Users?”

Wikipedia claims that, “Enterprise software is an integral part of a (computer based) Information System” and that “Services provided by enterprise software are typically business-oriented tools such as online shopping and online payment processing, interactive product catalogue, automated billing systems, security, enterprise content management, IT service management, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, business intelligence, project management, collaboration, human resource management, manufacturing, enterprise application integration, and enterprise forms automation.”

OK, thanks wiki, so I understand that enterprise software deals with a lot of the “behind the scenes processing.” Just because it deals with the “back end” processing does not provide justification for user interfaces that are dull and boring. Real people still have to use the software every day and usually they end up having to perform that same task every day.

Several industry experts have called gamification one of the most important trends in technology. Gartner lists gamification as one of the top technology trends for 2013 and beyond. Gamification does not mean turning your application into a game. It means using some interface elements that are found in games – that make them fun to use and somewhat addicting – and applying them to the user cases that are typically associated to enterprise software.

Getting rid of the beige! On several occasions, I have suggested using sound to provide feedback when a complex query completes, or when a large several-step record has been committed to the database. Most of the time I’ve received a “blank stare” when suggesting that we using various media to enhance the interactions associated with enterprise applications.

There are decades of psychological research on games and what makes them fun. (See, for example: Malone, T.W. What makes computer games fun? Byte, 1981, 6, 258-277) All enterprise software applications should take a close look at this large pool of research and try to find areas that can apply to their specific application. Interface designers, for example need to consider intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivations of end users, try to find ways to effectively challenge users, to provide some element of fantasy, to attempt to stimulate curiosity and so much more.

Applying this research will help make the day-to-day operations that enterprise end users have to endure seem more fun – encouraging “Coopertition”, increasing productivity, employee engagement, loyalty, ultimately making more money for the enterprise!

There is typically a 10 to 100 times return on investment (ROI) on resources spent on Usability and User-Centered Design. We are here to help your organization become as successful as possible. Take advantage of this ROI by contacting The Usability People today.