By Dave Finger, Director of User Experience
What is User Experience?
A few decades ago, most software designers were simply thought of as web or user interface designers – focusing more on colors, styling and page layout, but often never stepping back to understand how the user holistically connected with the product. This is the core of user experience, essentially the process of enhancing a user’s satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility and pleasure provided with its interaction. With the growing role of technology in all facets of our daily lives, a good user experience is not just nice to have anymore, its expected.
Good Design starts with Data
Software teams introduce minor enhancements to legacy products all the time as part of the incremental improvements during a products lifecycle. Add a button here, tweak a workflow there, most interface updates are hard to notice without a keen eye or intimate knowledge of the product. It’s rare, as a software designer, to be able to completely reimage the UX (user experience) of an existing product line forged over decades of enhancements.
Our User Experience Team was given such an opportunity last year. The task: to rebrand, reinvent and rethink the overall user experience of the entire product suite. This posed an added challenge because each of our products had evolved over time to have vastly different user interfaces, navigation and even design languages.
Before we put pencil to paper or pixel to code, we started with research. Our research consisted of two phases: gathering data and synthesizing the data to prioritize meaningful usability enhancements. We conducted customer interviews, collected surveys, observed prospects and power users, and reviewed existing historical data. Then, iteratively throughout the design process, we shifted the research focus to usability and sentiment. We tested our proposed design improvements though A/B tests, users’ reviews, and constant iteration to improve the designs. The result was a titanic shift in our products’ design methodology.
In the end, we made hundreds of design improvements and enhancements in the recent major releases of Calero PINNACLE 7 and Calero VeraSMART 12. These advancements filter down into three major categories: Overall Design Aesthetic, Navigation and Responsive Design.
Attention on Visual Style
Our new design aesthetic is clean and modern with updated font and color pallets. This new design language reflects our commitment to pixel perfection; all components are created using a grid system for fluid responsiveness. We also know icons are effective to speed workflows while reducing errors, so we styled all new iconography with vector icons to help users see things clearly on every device, at any resolution.
Navigation Helps Users Move Faster – From Anywhere
The most effective navigation is contextual and presented as needed, yet readily available. Too many navigation choices on the screen at once can overwhelm and confuse users. We improved the way our users navigate within the products by simplifying the menus. We designed a discrete navigation that hides when it’s not in use so users can focus on what’s important to them – the content. We also provided a breadcrumb on every page to help users always know where they are in the hierarchy.
Responsive Design is a Must
Responsive design applies to more than just multiple device compatibility. It’s also about optimizing screen space to present more content and minimize scrolling. We replaced major components and workflows with fluid, responsive layouts which adapt to any screen and allow users to work anywhere, on any device.
When a product is designed with the user experience in mind, it changes how users interact with it – boosting productivity and satisfaction. And this is only the beginning. These initial improvements set the stage for a continued evolution of our UX over the coming releases.
See the NEW UX in action!