UX Design for the Enterprise. A Brave New World…

Andreas Küfer
Thinking Design
Published in
3 min readFeb 2, 2017

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Today, enterprise users expect the same performance and usability they experience in their favorite consumer apps, across multiple devices. As well they should. Gone are the days when the user experience of an enterprise product was inconsequential. Goodbye! Ciao! Arrivederci!

While our reward for designing better experiences is ensured by the significant impact we can have on our enterprise users’ 9–5, the challenges we face are manyfold.

A few things we’ve picked up along the journey of designing experiences for the enterprise:

Serve the Right Master

In the enterprise space the person who signs the check to buy the tool, often isn’t the end user of the tool. Design for the person who actually uses it.

Sound obvious? It can actually be a big challenge when you are competing against flashy new features for limited engineering resources. Whenever available, leverage user feedback and data to support your case.

Generate Out of the Box Value

Time to value matters more than customizability. This ongoing disruption in the enterprise space yields increasing demand for SaaS solutions that provide easy and delightful out of the box experiences, focused primarily on core value features. Design experiences that provide meaningful defaults and thoughtful customization tooling.

Self-Service Please

Since we are no longer able to fully rely on formal user training for enterprise products, users must be given the means to onboard, train and help themselves. Design these elements as part of the product experience.

Develop Empathy for the Unknown

When starting out in the enterprise space, the UX designer may have little to no understanding of what their users do or why they do it. Therefore it is an absolute necessity that designers develop adequate empathy for their users. It may be challenging but we must invest in it.

Cover Complex and Simple

The range of tasks enterprise tools aim to serve couldn’t be broader. From complex tasks for highly skilled individuals, to tasks with a swipe-left-or-right simplicity, experiences vary and cannot be designed as one-size-fits-all. Instead, design dedicated experiences for each.

Make it Scale

Today, content volume and velocity have reached levels that until recently, could only be imagined. Nothing is stored locally anymore. Hello big data! Hello content velocity! Hello cloud! Design patterns and feedback mechanisms must be prepared to handle such scale.

Need an example? Let’s imagine you’re uploading 5000 videos to your cloud storage through a web UI. The upload process allows you to define metadata and apply a video codec. The upload stalls. Provide an experience to avoid the panic.

BYOD

“Bring your own device” is a reality in the workspace, and the multitude of surfaces, handoffs between devices, and offline and online access capabilities will continue to grow. Design “responsively”, responsibly and account for it when testing your designs.

It’s an exciting time to be a designer — to test, stretch, push the boundaries of the known, to have the opportunity of defining the next generation of enterprise user experiences and to truly have a positive impact on our users’ 9–5.

Godspeed fellow designers! Embrace the adventure :-)

Photos by

, featuring my extremely talented co-workers and . A big thank you to them, those of you who helped me formulate my thoughts and all the other wonderful folks, whom I have the pleasure to be on this journey with.

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Andreas Küfer
Thinking Design

A Swiss guy… who should write more about his craft! Influencing Experience Design @Adobe & riding bikes. Residing in California.