As I started my career in presales, I inherited a Neolithic laptop that resembled something between Chandler’s laptop from Friends and the Monolith from 2001. The first client I showed our product to politely stifled a laugh watching me lug this behemoth to his desk and set it down with a ceremonious thud, and I can’t blame him! The most damning thing however, were his comments about the product itself. While he admitted the software was clearly feature-rich and up to his business needs, the look and feel of our ORYX software was outdated and off-putting, making it very hard to sell internally. Something needed to be done, and quickly. Before we were back in the office we’d put in a request for a brand new Microsoft Surface: touchscreen, razor-thin, sleek and sexy.
One problem solved. If only updating your UI and UX were so simple!
Before we go on, the question I should address is: what is the difference between UI and UX? These words are often used interchangeably, but they refer to very specific aspects of design. A good way to distinguish them is to imagine a park. UI refers to the individual pieces that make up the park: the benches, the trees, the paths and so on. UX refers to the general feelings you get from using the park and from how those elements are laid out: the view from the benches, where the paths lead you, and the distance between the drinks machine and the toilet.
Hopefully this highlights the importance of a good UI: a park might have best layout in the world but if the trees are dead and all the ducks are those geese that bite your fingers, no one will stay very long. Try and put yourself in the end-user’s position. Imagine seeing a product that offers a truly unique service or has enormous potential for your business, but is poorly designed, misery to use, or just plain ugly. Would you stick around? Or start looking at other options?
A good UI is an absolutely essential part of the success of your product, and therefore your business. In an ever-growing software market, the pressure to stand out from the crowd becomes paramount. Features might be what draw customers to you in the first place, but the details are what keep them happy and coming back for years down the line. No matter what you’re offering, how you present your offering is what matters the most, something I found out to my cost with that client I spoke to back at the start of my career.
Since then, Accountagility have been on a furious journey to improve and overhaul our UI offerings. We began by aligning our rebranding efforts with the product, developing primary and secondary palettes of colour we could use to give our product ORYX a new coat of paint. The primary palette creates our overall tone and let us harmonise our products across web, tablet and desktop. We used secondary colours to support the primary palette, and add splashes of colour to signpost extra detail where needed. This was completed with our new logo, a much more modern and sleeker piece than its predecessor.
Buttons, icons, and fonts also enjoyed a critical rethink, along with their size and positioning. Guiding the user through the product can be done both subtly and effectively with the correct ideas guiding your design, which is where the UX comes into play. This is something I’ll be talking about next time, so join me then.
Thanks for reading!
Next Issue: Refining the User Experience