User Interfaces in Enterprise Mobility

It is the first day of TechEd in Vegas. So I took the time to walk around and have a look on all mobile solutions out there offered at the Clubhouse.

What I can see and have to honour is the amount of space they have given to present mobile solutions and the space is right at the beginning of the room, when you enter ClubHouse. So it shows the significant vlaue mobile apps have to SAP.

But then I had a look at all the apps and there is one thing I do not understand: everybody talks about mobilizing the work force, but does anybody have the actual user in mind as well?
It seems that the user is just a disturbing factor in this strategy. What other reason can we find to explain to the user why the UI is so difficult to use?

Lets see what I mean by this.

Take any App out there running on a PDA or a tablet device. We would expect, users can use their finger to use the app. At least this is the ‘device of choice’ if we use native Android or iPhone apps. Okay, I accept a scrollable textbox on a Windows CE device is not really useable with the finger. But for how long is an iPhone available now? It was first shipped in 2007 I think – so it is nearly 4 years since. We have been able in our company to build ‘finger useable’ items like scrollable textboxes, error popups, etc. on Windows CE devices and Windows Tablets. so it is possible to do that. Okay, I took any app and tried to use it. First impression: most apps still feel like a chewing gum – I had no idea if the button was selcted or not, I did not get any immediate feedback. There had been tabs with no data behind,but I did not see if there was data behind the tab or not. Furthernore I have not been able to check if a certain task was already done or not. And the best thing: as I pressed a wrong button – I had to get a pen to close the message box. Hey, a single line of code provides any messagebox with an OK button that is at least bigger then the small red X on the top right corner of the window and beside most users I am absolutely able to use apps with my fingernail…….

What I ask myself – who tells the users to accept this? And why do except this? Most likely because they are told it is not posible to do it in a different way. Even on iPad the solution was hard to use and felt slow. And even worse- did you hear about the Woody Woodpecker phenomenom? If a user presses a button and nothing happens, he will press the button several times again. Unfortunately the system stores his button presses and now it processes either the click at this position on the next screens or it runs the same process several times. Both things are not okay, cause they store wrong data and users have no idea how to correct that. Even worse, they get frustrated and to be honest, it can be avoided that easy…..

In the future if you have to run a mobile project – please have the user in mind and try to use your app with your thumb on the mobile device itself. Most of our apps are build for mobile plant employees. It is always impressing how big their fingers are. If we then show up with an app, where a user needs a pen to use it, the app gets unuseable after a short time, cause the pen disappears really soon.

At least, usability is not a question of the chosen device, it is only a question of the screen design in the first place. Money spend in this area will dramatically increase the acceptance of the app among users.