Interaction Design in enterprise applications

How can we keep improving the designs of enterprise applications without starting from scratch ?

I have been working in a healthcare company Edifecs for over two years now and as a UX designer, I have contributed to 3 enterprise products and 1 consumer app. For the most part, I was working on small modules of these products with one more Senior Designer. The enterprise applications mentioned above are actually the fruits of years and years of hard-work put in by product managers, business analysts, designers, developers, QA testers, Sales and Implementation consultants. In short, a lot of blood and sweat has gone into creating these solutions which our clients (with hundreds of users) have been using it since many years and will hopefully, continue to do so even further.

These products have become legacy products by themselves and it feels really great to be a part of the team that has created it. But as a “new designer”, I can’t help but feel the heaviness while working on it. There are few areas in the design of these enterprise products that I wish were flexible to adapt to the new trends and thus, stay relevant in todays times.

  1. Delightful UX: As a designer, I am an advocate of delightful enterprise design. If people are going to be using an application from 9 to 5 pm at their work, the application might as well be a pleasant one. This pleasantness in design is often conveyed through choices such as the language and tonality used in the application, iconography, fonts and the color palette. If we make a conscious decision of them at the begining of designing a product, we define a major aspect of user experience for it. With time, we can keep changing their styles to evolve.
Delightful UX

2. Consistent UI patterns: For a unified user experience across different products (or same product), designers must strive to use the same UI patterns. Consistency will help users to recognize them better rather than recall ( Read: Nielsen’s usability Heuristics for User Interface Design). Each enterprise product should be tagged by different UI patterns used in it. Eg: simple grid, forms, preview boxes, etc. used in Product A, B and C. If the product is too heavy, maybe modularizing it and tagging it would work. The point is to make an exhaustive list of patterns used for different enterprise products (or same product). This is because when its time to update a pattern, we can track different places in the products where it has been used and take an informed decision to change it. With time, we can also evaluate if these UI patterns need an upgrade.

UI patterns in different products

3. Designing for flows instead of products: A single product consists of multiple flows to accomplish multiple goals. Often, different products can have the same flows. Eg: user login flow, user logout flow, adding an entry to the table, deleting an entry to the table, etc. As designers, if we focus on creating and optimizing these flows and then placing them in the context of a specific product, it will keep our focus on improving the design instead of getting lost in the long list of product requirements. With time, we can try different ways to achieve a goal in the context of different products and keep evolving our designs. Each flow consists of different UI patterns. So, tagging patterns according to flows might also work.

Flows in different products
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