by Jill Barson Gilbert

10 things enterprise software developers can learn from game designers

Oct 02, 2015
Consumer ElectronicsEnterprise ApplicationsGaming

Most of us use enterprise software day-to-day at work, and use an iPad or Android tablet for work or pleasure. Here are 10 things that enterprise software companies should take to heart when developing business applications.

Last week, I attended the Sustainable Performance Forum (SPF) in Chicago, among 500-plus environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability, risk and IT professionals. Enablon, the event’s sponsor, spoke of the importance of of the user experience in working with their software.

Enterprise software users interact with the system in different ways:

  • casual users use the software occasionally to report incidents or complete tasks;
  • “power-users” input the bulk of the information to the system, perform complex calculations and generate reports;
  • managers view dashboards and trends to make informed decisions; and
  • system and local administrators manage user accounts, create new workflows, and adjust the system configuration.

The challenge is, how can one software platform make the user experience pleasant for all of its users? The platform must be simple enough for the casual user, yet robust enough for power users.

I use my iPad for light work-related tasks and also to relax by playing games like Restaurant Story 2 by Storm8. This gave me an idea – could enterprise software work like an iPad app?

A six-year-old Silicon Valley company, Storm8 reached 1 billion downloads last April – a huge milestone, even in the mobile app market. Storm8’s Chief Strategy Officer Terence Fung says:

“You, or your team, should have clear, simple objectives about the type of game you’re making and your audience… Listen to players and constantly iterate based on the feedback they give.”

Here’s my take… 

1. Make the technology intuitive

An iPad app requires little or no training; most users are self-trained. The apps have no place for detailed help files or user manuals.

2. A picture is worth a thousand words

Icons clearly illustrate actions to be taken. In Restaurant Story 2, touch the water glass in the speech bubble above a customer’s head to serve water. Touch a frying pan to cook an order.

3. Information is at your fingertips

Touch the icons in the status bar to check your progress. Touch the recipe book to check ingredients or touch the pantry to check your inventory. Touch the General Store to buy eggs or touch the Garden plot to harvest garlic or basil for a recipe.

4. Fulfill your customers’ needs

Just like in a real restaurant, in Restaurant Story 2, customers leave if there are no seats available, or if there is no food ready to serve. Most often, they leave happy. This requires constant attention.  

5. Reward your users

We all appreciate recognition for our achievements.Mobile app users earn badges and rewards as they reach certain levels or complete complex tasks.

6. Solicit feedback

Storm8 has a forum for app users; they solicit feedback and act upon information regarding features that do not work quite as intended (bugs), as well as new features and functions (enhancements).

7. Develop a road map

Know where your software is headed, based upon your intended audience. Gather ideas for enhancements from users, the market, regulatory bodies, and other sources.

8. Continually improve your software

Make sure that the software features and technology continue to be relevant to current and prospective customers. In Restaurant Story 2, the software company adds new challenges every week to keep users interested. Periodically, they issue a new release; the user gets a free upgrade, while maintaining their status and achievements.

9. Use your resources wisely

Have the right team size and skill sets to deliver. Sometimes this means running a lean team.

10. Plan for growth

Prepare to be successful. Think about how you can extend the app to other modules or users, keeping your core competencies in mind. And keep the cash flowing.

Sometime in the near future, I would like to see enterprise software applications provide an improved UX, more like we see with the best iPad apps. It certainly would make the enterprise software user experience more fun!

Note: the author conducts independent software evaluation and selections, and some of its clients are Enablon software users. The author receives no compensation for software licenses sold.