Many entrepreneurs are jumping on the software craze, hoping to build the next billion-dollar software. Or at least software they can eventually sell off for hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the marketing world for example, data from Chief Martec shows that in 2011, there were only about 150 marketing software. Fast forward to 2016 and the number was about 3,500 and in 2017 it stood at 5,000. Is it crazy to think that number has increased in 2018?
Definitely not. And that’s just for marketing software.
Unfortunately, like many before them, these entrepreneurs eventually realize that it’s difficult, like most worthwhile endeavors.
Some add unnecessary features with hopes that it will bring a few additional bucks at the expense of customer satisfaction. And they end up ruining everything.
With such stiff competition, how can you create user-friendly software? In my experience, it boils down to following these rules:
1. Intuitive user interface
A good user interface (UI) makes it possible for users of a software to easily understand information presented on a computer or phone. It should be easy for a user to take any actions they want to without complications and confusion.
Sure, some folks are naturally more tech-savvy than others, and will navigate any software, whether it has a good UI or not without any problems. But for others, when UI is good enough, they should be able to solve issues they have when they visit the help center or speak to a customer care representative.
Nevertheless, your software should generally be so easy enough to operate that users do not need a manual to understand how it works. Trying to reinvent the wheel or change certain elements users have subconsciously become used to will only destroy user efficiency.
For example, breadcrumbs allows users to determine their current location by providing a clickable trail of preceding pages for easier navigation. In this case, just using a toggle to switch between locations will be confusing when a user can’t tell their current location or how far off they are from where they started. In addition, it’s a waste of precious work time when users have to spend time figuring out where features are located.
2. Excellent technical performance
While elements of a good user interface are clearly visible, elements of a good technical performance from a software will not always be easily visible but can be felt.
For example, if your software takes a while to startup, users will not necessarily see why it’s taking too long to boot. They’ll just know it’s taking forever to start. Still, that’s an example of poor technical performance.
Using the example above, if software takes some time to start, you may consider using containers. Okay, let’s just say you should use containers whether your software boots instantly or not, because it has several benefits apart from enabling faster boot times as this infographic below shows.
Containers create a better testing and upgrade environment because working on one container module will not crash the entire software or make it unusable until whenever the developer is through with the test or upgrade.
More importantly, hire excellent developers, and ensure that quality assurance (QA) testers test your software for bugs and other usability problems. The QA testers can then make suggestions for improvement you can implement.
3. Great user experience
The first two rules are an offshoot of this one, but it encompasses a lot more, as you may already know.
Depending on where you’re reading or whom you’re listening to, you’ll hear that user experience (UX) has anywhere from four to six or more elements, including but not limited to:
An element like usability determines whether users can easily complete tasks on your software, discover new features, or just generally find their way around your software. The breadcrumbs and toggle example I gave earlier still fits as an example of poor usability.
Your software’s value is a huge part of user experience, because some software have good usability, but are not doing well from a business perspective. However, when your software satisfies users’ needs, it is valuable.
These needs are in two categories — spoken and unspoken. If your software promises to help users track time and it does that, it meets a spoken need. That’s because users know they want to track time, which is why they’ll find your software valuable in the first place.
Nonetheless, when your software is easy to navigate and use, or maybe helps users keep a time log and possibly save it for offline use, that’s an unspoken need which is also valuable to users.
If your software doesn’t add value to the life of users by filling their needs, user experience is terrible no matter how beautifully designed it is. Always aim for a great user experience when creating your software.