Designing a Web 2.0 interface does give us a unique opportunity to fix what’s broken with most enterprise software today. Regardless of whether you are trying to implement the latest XYZ’s enterprise web solution or are building a custom web-based application, taking a Web 2.0 approach will likely make for a better user experience.
The Web 2.0 Approach
Since Web 2.0 is an approach, here are four characteristics I would focus on to improve the user experience.
1. Less Implementation, more content. Web 1.0 was about bringing data to the desktop, often via portals. This often resulted in a ‘My XYZ’ page with a hundred links. Great. Now the user has a 1 in 100 chance of making the right choice. These systems were flexible and certainly better than logging into 5 disparate systems, but how much better are they than just creating a static HTML page with those same links or a “Main Menu’ in the old mainframe days? The web 2.0 approach will dispense with portletviews and provide integrated content tailored to how the user would actually use it. It will break the political boundaries within the company and provide rich contextual views so that users can make fluid decisions. Long gone will be the days of ‘We cannot give you access to the data, but you can link to us…is that ok?’ A great example of this approach iswww.zillow.com where you can view real estate information from a customer view, not from a realtor view www.realtor.com.
2. Rich interaction…where needed. I like Rich, engaging interfaces when they work the way a human works. Unfortunately, many of them to date are loaded with ‘surprises’ and new learning experiences most users are not willing to tolerate. On the other hand, when an interface works like the real world, most people are happy. Take for instance www.kayak.com. This travel site adjusts the selection of flights when I move the sliders on the left. My stereo works the same way. Move the volume slider and I enjoy more sound. No learning, no waiting, no back button.
3. Community collaboration. We’re social creatures. Hang out at a mall and watch people for a day. You’ll learn a lot. When users look at your data, they often desire validation from others. Web 2.0 applications likewww.flickr.com play on this natural human behavior to build decentralized social networks. That’s correct; your new Web 2.0 application will actually embrace feedback from everyone in your company with a bottom up approach rather than a top-down approach. This is not a radical as it seems. Most key business knowledge is already stored at the bottom level in spreadsheets and emails rather then the company’s ERP system. Just integrate your application to embrace this phenomenon.
4. Purpose Built. Visit a construction site and hang out with a carpenter. You will likely find a selection of saws for specific types of jobs. The web allows us to create a 1-to-1 relationship with the user. Know them, build just what they need and they will be happy. Avoid ‘Boil the Ocean’ designs that try to meet the needs of every user but rarely meet the needs of any. This approach requires clear vision and strong leadership. Products likewww.gmail.com are forging the path with simple but effective solutions. ‘I need to check my email, I don’t have much time and I don’t want spam.’ Done. Thanks Google.