By Richard Alvarez

Businesses on the road to digital transformation know they can’t get there without moving to the cloud, and more make the switch every year: The Worldwide Public Cloud Services Market is projected to grow by 17.3 percent in 2019 to $206.2 billion, up from $175.8 billion in 2018, according to Gartner.

Cloud isn’t just the trendy thing to do; cloud storage and computing enable innovation and faster go-to-market strategies and are more scalable, flexible, accessible, efficient and effective than previous options.

Yet benefits like flexibility and scalability can be a double-edged sword. For software as a service (SaaS) applications hosted in the cloud, post-migration feature creep can become a problem, because it’s so easy to add new functionalities to and deploy new instances of an application – which can leave a focus on user experience (UX) in the dust.

An application can take on a life of its own under various product owners or design teams, and before you know it, there are discordant user interface (UI) elements competing with each other, or redundant features for accomplishing tasks.

With different product teams working in silos on features for their particular application, a business may not even realize there are UX issues – but the customer most assuredly does. If you don’t create an understanding of how products are related, and use common features so customers don’t need to learn new interfaces between one application and the next, you end up speaking different languages to different customers, negatively impacting the customer experience – and the business.

The good news is that it’s possible to avoid UX degradation with a few best practices:

  • Ensure all teams share an understanding of the business’s UX perspective by answering some questions: What does our brand say? What does the UI mean to the customer, and what is it intended to do for them? These answers should guide all future product designs.
  • Create a style guide – a repository where all UI elements and wireframes are prebuilt and housed. A design/development team can pull prototypes from the master toolkit and add custom features as needed, speeding up the development process. This ensures consistency of branding and functionality in the basic elements, while allowing innovation to exist side by side with conformity. In the same way that having predetermined colors and sizes of LEGO blocks allows children to create a multitude of projects from a few plastic bricks, having the basic interface elements built, vetted and ready to go means teams don’t need to worry about what it will look like or how it will interact, and can focus on making better products that differentiate the business from competitors.
  • The style guide should not exist as a static entity; it is a living document that can be reworked as new features are built and teams evaluate what works and what doesn’t. The difference is this remains the master source from which all builds spring; when anything is modified, it’s done here, to keep it consistent across the enterprise.
  • Creating a style guide from scratch isn’t the only solution. When working from a framework another organization has created (e.g., Bootstrap), get rid of anything your business does not need or will not use, then build on your own custom-made elements.
  • Remember that you’re not producing code for the sake of it. Any functionalities or add-ons should come from data and market analysis that indicates users want or need it – not from someone’s gut feeling.
  • Evaluating applications for UI issues and functionality creep can be challenging when businesses need to keep their focus on the customer and the marketplace. Look to trusted third-party experts to evaluate IT infrastructure from top to bottom to identify problems and uncover opportunities.

Digital transformation doesn’t mean that a business should take its eyes off what really matters: the customer. Ensure a seamless user experience doesn’t get left behind post-migration, and your customers will come with you on your digital transformation journey.

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Richard Alvarez is UX practice lead at Saggezza. Alvarez can be reached at richard.alvarez@saggezza.com.