Enterprise UX: More Than Meets the Eye

Did you love transformers growing up? I did. I spent hours playing with this exact toy as a kid.

A vehicle, an action figure, a puzzle, all in one. Fantastic. Hopefully they still make them like this in the post-Michael Bay era and they haven’t gone all easy the way new Lego has. But I digress.

The practice of User Experience (UX) for enterprise products, like those we make at Nulogy, can be summarized with the original transformers catch-phrase of “More than meets the eye.”

The UX reality looks like this.

Let’s quickly reference the classic illustration Jesse James Garrett made of The Elements of User Experience, or UX “stack” as I like to call it.

Most of the UX conversation is about the part that is easily visible. In fact, in many consumer or agency environments UX is almost synonymous with these surface aspects even though there are other critical aspects of UX.

Most people think of the top 2 and maybe 3 layers of the stack when talking about UX. In websites and simple consumer applications, this is somewhat understandable because the lower 2–3 layers are not overly complicated. I see a lot of UX practitioners with graphic design backgrounds working in this kind of UX role.

In enterprise UX in particular, the lower parts of the stack represent a huge area of the UX effort and the UX-value to be achieved here is correspondingly large. If you have a series of elegant and carefully crafted user interfaces that, say, overlook an uncommon but high risk use case, the user experience may actually be pretty awful.

I redraw the UX stack like this as an illustration.

Of course, I recognize that this is speaking in broad brush strokes. But it’s fundamentally accurate. Enterprise applications are built for solving the problems of a business, an entity with capacity for tackling activities of immense complexity. Consumer applications are built for solving the problems of individual humans which by contrast are much simpler. UX designers that thrive on enterprise products enjoy a full stack UX experience and I find they have powerful analytical abilities and are very logical.

If you design a slick new personal organization app you just won’t flex as many skills and mental muscles as if you have to design a product that organizes the activities of an entire business with hundreds or thousands of people.

And this is what makes UX and product design in the enterprise space so fun. More fun than you might think at first glance, at least.

Originally published at www.enterprisesoftwaredesign.com.

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