User experience, the holy grail of SMB automation

This post is to share our experiences while building Indian SMB-oriented automation built with the ‘Mobile first’ approach. We call it Bizom (Business on the Move).

While building Bizom, the first thing we did was to make it our job to focus on users(after all we stand for ‘Mobile made easy’).

Following are some of the things we learned

  1. The number one reason why enterprise automation systems fail is due to poor usability.
  2. Our field users are people who can read English but are not necessarily tech-savvy.
  3. Our users know how to use their mobile phones but have rarely downloaded or used any applications apart from call/phonebook.
Here are 5 things we followed to build the easy user interface for Bizom.

Drill in your head that you are NOT the user.

It’s a huge temptation for startup teams to huddle and ‘brainstorm’ about the UX of the app. It’s useful of course but the input for it should come from interviews with real users(not your own salesmen). In the initial days of conceiving Bizom our whole product team visited the field at least once to understand the pain points and conditions, our field users work in. This made sure that while building the application ‘offline functionality’ was as important as ‘online’.

Usability/User experience != Cool user interface

The usability of the app is defined by how easily your users can start using the app. Making the app pleasant to the eyes helps, but the main focus should be to lay out the information in a way which is logical to the user. The engineering team usually wants to put actions on related objects nearby. I think it’s the product manager’s responsibility to work with the engineering team to let them see the customer’s viewpoint.

Usability over feature completeness.

The majority of enterprise business owners would want all the features on the day of ‘launch’.It’s our responsibility to sensitise them to usability issues. It’s much better that users use the limited features provided in the application, than an application which has everything but is impossible to use for a regular user.

Users are never dumb. softwares are.

When a field user reports an issue while using your software, your response should never be that it’s a ‘training’ issue. If built correctly, users are eager to learn new things and want to prove their smartness by using our software correctly. We just have to make it friendly to them.

Customers who give feedback on usability are worth their weight in gold. 

Initial customers are eager to help us build the product. Take their feedback very very sincerely, especially if it is related to the user experience of the app. Happy lead customers are the source of our viral word-of-mouth publicity.

Bonus: Give fanatical support

Support is a very important part of the user experience of your product. What is obvious to us is not necessarily obvious to the end user. Monitor your support calls and bring about a change in the thinking of your support staff to make it a pleasant experience for your users.

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