Media Queries for Business apps

While media queries are typically used to handle a site's transition between different devices and screen sizes, they can also be used to enhance the desktop experience.

Why use media queries?
Many enterprise users have wider monitors, so as designers we should take advantage of this horizontal screen real estate to deliver a stellar user experience - and use media queries to deliver additional tools on wider monitors.

Property management applications underutilize the right-hand side of the screen. Property managers live by inquiries - travelers emailing them regarding property availability etc. Most companies find that the faster they respond, the higher % conversion rate the inquiries have (they convert from inquiries into bookings). So delivering a new inquiry instantly to a property manager is of paramount importance to their bottom line.Read more

Rules for editing list rows one-by-one or in bulk

The foundation of a list is the row, and all the interactions associated with it. Far from being mundane or niche, row functionality is important in a user's process. Let's look at some emerging patterns that work well in Enterprise applications.

List actions on individual rows
Typically list rows have actions associated with them such as edit, archive, delete, move to, etc. Balancing easy access to these options without cluttering the list can be a huge challenge.
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Lists: make it easy for users to find and edit information

Users spend much of their day interacting with lists, making them a critical part of any enterprise software. Let's resolve to make lists that are easy to filter, simple to navigate and easy on the eyes.  Here's how:

Lists need to be dense
Typically businesses deal with 100s or 1,000s of results even after results have been filtered and sorted. And within each result is typically 5-15 pieces of information that need to be displayed within each row. (Typically a thumbnail photo, price, description, item attributes such as color, size or location, and other information related to the niche business the software is designed to serve).

With this much information to be displayed, entreprise software designers need to be smart about how to lay out a list. Commonly, lists are grids, with an X and Y axis of information. In email for example, the Y axis is the previous email descending in chronological order by default. The X axis typically contains column titles. The problem with using this model in entreprise software is that the X axis can become crowded to the point of being unusable. Read more

Give your customers a vision to aspire to

Understand what your customer aspires to (be / have / produce) and give them a vision that mirrors this. When you and your customer are working towards the same goal, you create trust.

If Apple has taught us anything about marketing, it's that we all have an idealized image of ourselves - and  when we advocate a position to someone, let's make sure we're speaking to that idealized vision. In Apple's case, they are subtly pushing a clean, cool, modern version of power and class (through computers). What Apple does right:Read more

Build a better dashboard

Every product starts out as something great, and at some point, some percentage invariably end up as a single-page dashboard.

Despite their ubiquity in cars, (single-page) dashboards are useless everywhere else. When you're driving, you need to see one metric: the speed you are traveling. Yes other data needs to bubble up - particularly alerts about simple problems that are easy to fix and catastrophic if they are let go (low oil, low coolant) but everything else is either beyond the purview of a dashboard (tire pressure) or simply not important. How this metaphor got carried over to software I have no idea, but it has to stop.

In a business you have multiple metrics that you need access to immediately, and no one piece of information will give you the overview of your business that makers of dashboards hope it will. You have incoming emails from internal and external sources, you have financial statements, you have business transactions (at one or more points per day), you have projects that need managing - and on and on into the minutiae of the particular business. Read more

Let users design your product

(They'll do a better job than you)

All the objections are true: users don't have design experience; Steve Jobs said never to ask users what they want; users don't really understand the tech space; they can't know what everyone needs, because they are too embedded in their own workflows.

And let's be clear - I don't mean literally let them sketch it out, design it and develop it.

But it's important to be able to lead a group of your users in a requirements gathering session. This is much more important than sitting down with a bunch of people in your company and trying to imagine what your business clients might need. Read more