Patrick is a technical specialist who has been creating architectures and software implementations for over two decades. His clients have been mainly Fortune 500 companies including Financal, Insurance, Entertainment, and Consumer Electronics. Patrick is passionate about keeping current with the latest trends in mobility and the technology landscape. No stranger to hands-on mobile development, he has produced several apps ranging from Enterprise business to children’s games. Patrick can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter at @pxtrick.
The Maturing of Mobile Enterprise Apps
Consumer App Flair
Designing consumer apps in the mindset of today’s startup and gaming worlds is a UI/UX designer’s dream. Aside from the basic premise that an app has to be functional and useful, designers have huge amounts of freedom to express themselves and create new and innovative ways to present unique app experiences. This freedom has created some fantastic new ideas in app design. Before the sliding panel navigation was made popular by the Facebook and Path apps, everything mostly just used boring tabs. Path also introduced the novel approach of their “exploding and spinning” menu that pretty much amazed everyone, from both the user and designer perspective! Apps like these become embedded into designers’ pool of ideas and, like the sliding menu panel, may eventually even become a common standard in design and usability.
Does Enterprise Mean Boring?
Unfortunately, designing for the Enterprise is not as exciting as in the consumer space where the startup world has such a large influence. The target use cases are considerably more conservative and there’s much less room for experimentation with functionality like menus and navigation. Typically, an Enterprise company’s first dive into the mobile space begins with a rewrite of an existing web application. As designs go, these web apps are already likely very design conservative, focusing mainly on accomplishing the core business functionality. This doesn’t mean that a mobile team must necessarily create boring designs, but they will probably not be forging the future for mobile app UI and UX.
Enterprise Apps Should Be Amazing
If the Enterprise is not the place to introduce game-changing mobile ideas, then aren’t these apps necessarily going to provide an inferior experience for users who are used to cutting-edge consumer apps? Thankfully, the answer is a firm No. The enterprise may be limited in experimentation, but that does not prevent fantastic design and user experience. Businesses are really starting to grasp what mobile means to their users and how it is now deeply ingrained in our lives. The effect is that we are starting to see robust mobile use-cases come out of business units that have an increasing understanding of how the workflows of their Enterprise apps differ from consumer apps. With this better understanding of conservative user workflows and the design boundaries in Enterprise, the role of the UI and UX designers becomes more well-defined, but not necessarily overly constrained.
We’re not in the infancy of mobile development any more where finding good app designers was painfully difficult. Most designers have begun building their own collection of resources and you’d be hard-pressed to find a designer who had not heard of the Teehan & Lax iOS templates. The mobile OS companies are in noticeable competition and continue to give us advances in UI capabilities with every release. Because these new features are rapidly absorbed into our consumer app designs, they become safe, yet still somewhat edgy design elements for the Enterprise to take advantage of. Maturing Enterprise designers are figuring out ways to use these interesting elements to spice up their apps without disrespecting the conservative nature of the app.
Closing the Gap
Just because the cutting edge mobile app trends are likely not going to grow out of the Enterprise, we can still have amazing, beautiful apps with interesting UX. The community of mobile UI and UX designers is expanding with more experts, while our tolerance of poorly designed apps is rapidly dwindling. Today’s Enterprise apps have a bad reputation for being poor imitations of their respective websites, but that is rapidly changing. We’ve matured to the point where our expectation of Enterprise apps is the same as the consumer apps we use, and the distinction between the quality of the two is vanishing.