How to make business applications intuitive?

Ask any number of people whether anything from a mobile phone to a consumer app or a corporate application is intuitive, and you will probably not get a unanimous answer.  Everybody knows someone who claims that iOS is easier to use over Android right?

But why is that, and how does one make a new intuitive app or device under such conditions?

I am not a specialist in this area, but I do have young kids and am fortunate enough to still have both my parents and that provides some interesting insights :

  • Why is it that kids know how to use a tablet the moment they are born and elder people tend to need training for everything?
  • Why was having a flip phone the coolest thing some years ago, and the world went crazy when Adele dared to use one in a recent video clip?
  • Why is getting used to iOS not easy when you always have used Android before?  Where is that back button gone?

I am wondering how much our past, knowledge and experience influence the perception of intuitiveness.  Being used to how something works must have an impact on how one gets used to something new.   Whether something is intuitive seems to be a very personal experience.

Even in little things like check boxes, we can see our past of checking something with a pencil as done by writing a symbol next to it.  Imagine a generation or people who have never done so, or one who will stop writing all together when tablets are used to note things down by typing on a touch screen or even speaking to them.  How would one represent a check box in such a future?

When is an application intuitive

Translate this to the business world of enterprise applications.  When is an application intuitive?

Over the years, we have become used to seeing data being represented in lists:

  • My open opportunities
  • My top 10 accounts
  • My to do list
  • My favorite contacts

list more intuitive than business cards?

The only area where we by intuition have preferred to see something other than a list in business applications until today was our agenda: our list of appointments.  Somehow old fashioned agendas, or printed calendars have left us with a more comfortable feeling of seeing appointments being represented in a matrix like calendar view.  I do not even have to add a screenshot here to make you imagine your outlook calendar now right?

Oracle Sales Cloud introduced something I have never seen in an enterprise application before:  Somehow I was amazed to see contacts as business cards.

Has the soon-to-be-archaic western habit of exchanging business cards, or the more intimate ceremony of exchanging business cards Japanese-style, imprinted us with a perception that contacts look easier to manage when represented as business cards?  Pure technically, finding a contact in a alphabetically ordered list would probably be easier no?

The good thing is that Oracle Sales Cloud provides choice when it comes to showing lists!  The agenda can be shown as a calendar or as a list of appointments, which will be highly appreciated for the generation that has gotten used to seeing their calendar as a list on a smartphone, and the list of contacts can be shown as a proper list or as pile of business cards.

business cards more intuitive than list?

What actually has happened to Sales Cloud is that a group of very creative people have had the opportunity to dedicate themselves to designing and continuously innovating the user experience of Oracle solutions.

These are the people that also gave us the Overview pages for accounts and contacts and the Sales Dashboard that shows just KPI’s.  Looking back, all of these innovative new views just make sense, and I do not understand why nobody ever had this idea before.

It is amazing to see how they continuously are trying to innovate the user experience of Oracle Sales Cloud and the other Oracle solutions, as habits change, technology changes and nothing seems to be intuitive for ever anymore.

Want to know more about what they do?  Check out their philosophy and work here

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