Even though many might think that we are in the age of User Centered Design, for people who like me have had a chance to provide consulting for hundreds of software companies, it is easy to see that this is not at all obvious.

Why is it so difficult for so many software companies to design systems around their users? First of all, we need to realize that behind this little definition lies a true cultural revolution. For decades, most development efforts went into creating business type software. In these cases, the method used to design these systems starts with which data need to be processed, and at most extended to studying the processes that involve that data. The human factor has always been missing from this line of reasoning.

Even today, in consulting efforts aimed at modernizing designing processes, the standard response to these prompts is: “In any case, we don't make apps, those questions only concern the apps, business applications still work like they used to, so we don't need it.” Unfortunately, this isn't true. Users today are accustomed to the dozens of user-centric apps that they use every day, and they expect to interact with all IT services with the same simplicity and immediacy.

So the question is important and urgent: for many, a change of mindset is necessary in order to stay relevant. The problem is, how? What is the course of action for people who have designed for years using other methods? And even before that, from the point of view of the people who have to manage the project: is it worth the trouble to ask the people who design business software to consider a certain attention to the UX, or is it just easier to use someone who already has this skill?

In my experience, I have found that input from a UX designer is only critical for certain types of applications, in particular those for end customers (B2C). In the case of business applications, it is instead possible to evolve your own design skills in a User-Centric way and achieve satisfactory results even from just taking this step. And in any case, we will already be predisposed to integrate the work of a professional designer, something that is far from easy when there's no common cultural terrain.

So what are the steps that designers of business systems can use to begin putting the user at the center of their work? Here I'd like to talk about what I saw work in our company, which has handled these conversions for quite some time.

The conversion takes two steps:

  • Learn to know your user.
  • Be familiar with a series of standard UX solutions to adopt.

Being able to design a completely customized UX requires a specific skill that is often – erroneously – considered beyond the possibilities of people who have always operated differently. Experience in the field confirms that by tackling these two points you can design business applications with a UX that's acceptable for modern users: simply decide to pursue this course.

If you feel ready to make the move, shortly we'll address in this blog the first step in learning to know your user. Keep following us!