First impressions are important. When it comes to creating legal spend management software, it’s easy to say that achieving success starts with a well-thought-out design, but what does that actually mean? A users’ experience within the application is vital to its success. Here are three concepts I keep in mind while designing.
Different but Familiar
The legal industry is littered with legacy applications that companies have been using since their inception. These applications are built on out-of-date technology and similarly dated user interface concepts. To bridge the gap between past and present trends, you need a design that is different but familiar. This blends together the useful features and processes currently done in the legacy application with the new and improved tools of the new application. Rebuilding from scratch can seem enticing, especially in the pursuit of innovation. But the aim here is to ease a users’ transition into an entirely new application in order to get the user back to business as usual in a shorter amount of time. Designers should use their expertise to make that transition as seamless as possible. The end result will be a happy user base using a newer, better UI.
Keep it Simple
As a designer, it’s tough to not get excited and possibly a little too creative when presented with a new challenge. I’ve found myself thinking, “It’d be really cool if…” every now and again before realizing that the idea may not be the easiest experience for a user. So when thinking about user experience in legal software, keep it simple. Simple UX is easier to understand and master. Users will appreciate not having to study in order to interact with your site. The last thing you want to do is get halfway through a task only to realize that maybe your once-great idea is more problematic than you had thought. Simple UX is easier to develop and requires less resources to maintain. The simpler your user experience, the more flexible you can be in developing and implementing solutions. For a new application, keeping things simple may be the best thing a designer can do until they get feedback from their users.
Keep it Consistent
There’s a learning curve that comes when using a new application. As mentioned above, an application designed with the concept of different but familiar in mind can help shorten that curve. You can take that even further by making sure your designs are consistent. Design in a way that develops repeatable patterns for your users to pick up on and become more comfortable with while using the application. Here are a few questions I consider while designing:
- How do users navigate between each major feature?
- Within those features, how do you navigate each sub-section?
- When interacting with different features, do users perform similar actions in the same way?
- How is the application communicating with the user? (e.g., form validations, application notifications, etc.).
Without consistency, an application takes longer to learn and can prevent your users from working as efficiently as possible.
So, to recap. Be different but familiar, keep it simple, and keep it consistent. These are all concepts particularly useful in designing UX/UI for legal spend management software, but are applicable to any software application development effort. To value these concepts is to value your users, so keep them in mind!