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Great user experience is (everything but) magic. What does it take to create an outstanding UX?

‎05-13-2014 09:41 AM - edited ‎05-15-2014 09:43 AM

Guest post by Noa Danon, HP Software IT Operations Management

 

This is the story of how the user experience of Service Anywhere came to be. It was all pretty simple, actually.

We gave dozens of very talented developers the challenge to create an enterprise application that would serve anyone, anywhere. The developers were told to “sleep on it” and everyone woke up the next day inspired after a night of dreaming of user desires. They awoke and gathered together to build an exciting user experience that is simple and friendly, which everyone could use. Easy as that!

 

If this was a true story, UX experts like me would be out of a job. Designing a great user experience requires a lot of thought and hard work. It doesn’t just magically happen.

 

Fortunately for me, a lot of thought and effort was invested around the user experience of Service Anywhere. The part of the story above that is true involves the very talented developers.

 

We here on the UX team just added a bit of research, brainstorming, shouting, more research, more shouting, sketching, wireframes, wireframes that were thrown away, graphic designs, better graphic designs, validation sessions with partners and customers, very close work with the developers of each component, and then with the QA, and with the documentation team, feedback from anyone who played with the application, feedback from anyone who heard about the application…. WHEW, and the cycle repeats itself with each new release.

 

As we designed Service Anywhere’s UX, we tried to let a couple of principles guide us, which I’d like to share with you.

 

  • Never forget the target audience of a given page or module
    Users of our Employee Self Service module (ESS) are quite different from the users of the Report Builder or Process Designer—they have different goals, skills, patterns of use and expectations.

    ESS screens are kept very clean and simple, with images and large buttons. They’re meant to be non-intimidating to the casual users, guiding them to complete tasks which are rather simple and follow a relatively fixed path. We can’t assume the user has any previous experience with this system or equivalent tools. For this type of user, we needed to employ common patterns found across the modern web to make things feel familiar. On the other hand, the Agent screens meant for expert users have a more complex layout: a full toolbar, extensive personalization features (e.g. collapsible panels, a configurable dashboard, favorite views, etc.). These users know what they’re doing, and they expect the system to have an optimized workflow. Still, we keep in mind that experts or novices (you never know what they might be) all our users are humans—with human capabilities and limitations. Even as we design dozens of screens for expert users, we try to employ common patterns that evoke a feeling of familiarity. When users who’ve seen N screens thus far get to their ‘N+1’ screen, we want it to be a natural extension of everything they’ve done up until now.

 

  • Responsive design is not a luxury anymore
    A modern application cannot afford to target one screen size or one browser. This is true even within an enterprise, and users expect (indeed, demand) an experience tailored for the device they’re using. On a 24-inch screen, the user expects more rows in the grid and maximal use of available space; on projectors there is not enough space for the preview; and we assume that on tablets the user is more in a ‘consumption’ mode than in edit mode.

 

 

 

 

The change record page in large and small resolution. Notice for example the changes in the header (sub modules become drop down, the way the user is presented), the tabs on the left and the form layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESS on high and small resolutions. Notice the changes in the header, the tiles and the left panel.

 

 

  • Keep the common use-cases clear and simple
    When working with an R&D team, it’s often very tempting to try to resolve all end-cases. However, satisfying as it might be to crack the hardest nuts, in many cases those minor use-cases might end up “taking over the whole design”, complicating and distorting everything else. This, of course, is something we shouldn’t allow.

    There is a trade-off here. In those rare usage scenarios, the user would have to work harder—they may even get a sub-optimal experience. Unfortunately, this is something we might  have to live with that  to assure a fast learning curve for the common cases.
    Of course, trying to make it too simple is not good either: using wizards and instructions everywhere would quickly annoy our expert users and slow down their work.

 

Report module - An example of a complex task made simple – create a new report.

 

 

Process designer – complex process can be achieved with simple intuitive UI

 

  • Customization would affect your intended UX in unexpected ways—plan for it

Tailoring the application to organization needs would enormously affect the user experience, which means a closed-and-controlled experience. A customer might decide to add dozens of fields to a form (while defining them all as mandatory…), give some very vague names to these fields, add many phases to the workflow or “spam” their end-users with tons of email notifications. All of those would dramatically affect the end-user who’s out there using our application - and this, from the UX designer’s viewpoint, is scary indeed.

There are some means to mitigate that, though. Here’s one example: in each of the detail views for any kind of record (be it an incident, request, change, etc.), there’s always a “lifecycle widget” at the top. This widget informs the user of the current state of the record, what actions can they take on this page, if there are validation errors and where can they go next. Having all this information in one place that’s always available, maintains a degree of assured usability across the application, regardless of any complex customization the organization is allowed to define across the rest of the page.

 


Lifecycle widget – display the process, the phase, instructions, errors and next available phases.

 

  • There’s a ton of goals and constraints...which don’t always interest the end-user

Enterprise application development is hard. It must take into account extensive technical and business requirements, issues surrounding security, scalability, customization, governance, information architecture, localization - not to mention corporate branding, legal and regulatory aspects the list goes on and on. .

All these end us adding yet more constraints over the UX work. However, these worries are often times far removed from the interest of the actual end-users who are going to spend their day using our application.  Within these complex boundaries lies our challenge: repeatedly trying to think outside of the box for solutions that  enable a smooth user experience in this context of a big set of conflicting goals.

 

You might find some examples of us tackling this complex framework in the current version of Service Anywhere. Come see what we have been working on by trying Service Anywhere for yourself.  Don’t worry, we aren’t done innovating the user experience.  I can assure you that more advancements are coming. Stay tuned.

 

I also encourage you to get the latest on Service Anywhere at HP Discover.  Here are a few sessions discussing Service Anywhere:

 

About the Author

HPE-SW-Guest

This account is for guest bloggers. The blog post will identify the blogger.

Comments
cb44
on ‎06-01-2014 09:04 PM

Love the focus on the user experience, realising that there are a multitude of interfaces and platforms they can potentially come in through.  In theory the simplicity of the app will appeal to the casual user, while the power presented to the expert user will ensure they reap the maximum benefit on offer.  Looking forward to seeing it in action @ Discover!

on ‎06-02-2014 11:00 PM

Many usefull informations

Sathiyan Srinivasan
on ‎06-03-2014 06:11 AM

Very nice article... shows how R&D should look for user experience and learn and develop what is expected now and in future.

Rey Johnson
on ‎06-03-2014 10:37 AM

Great article. We have been users of ServiceCenter and Service Manager for several years now. Over the course of those years, we have come to discover that often times, our customers either don't know exactly what they want. In other, opposite cases, the customer may tend to try to be too descriptive of the specific UI objects to be used even during initial information gathering exercises and will often try to 'design the solution' even before requirements are gathered.  

Honored Contributor
on ‎06-05-2014 02:51 AM
Nice to see that the process is not standing at one point. Are you going to make a web demonstrations of topics discussed on Discovery for those who won't be able to attend it?
Honored Contributor
on ‎06-08-2014 12:25 PM

I really like the new SAW 3 interface and am hoping SM follows a similar path. With the 9.34 release, SM is closer to SAW 2, but 3 really is a big improvement.

Rich Webner
on ‎06-09-2014 07:56 AM

This is an example of excellent design. User centric, consistent and available on any device. Well done!

on ‎06-15-2014 12:26 PM

The UX really is absolute key nowadays for any IT solution. Its great to see that HP has grasped that and has done such a great job on HP Service Anwyhere. Now let the other software solutions from HP do the same - I challenge you HP :-)

Anders Nilsen
on ‎06-16-2014 04:58 AM

Service anywhere struck gold with this new release. The UX interface is lightyears ahead of competitors like SNOW and Remedyforce. 

on ‎06-16-2014 02:15 PM

Great article! Thank you for sharing those UX principles. I can't wait to see the improvements get carried over to HP Service Manager.

Robbie Clay-Ament
on ‎06-22-2014 02:58 PM

It's good to hear that during the design of the user experience the casual or self-service user is not forgotten.  Often we are so focused on specific IT operations users (i.e. change administrators, help desk agents, etc.) that the occasional users of request knowledge management are overlooked. 

dkalian
on ‎06-24-2014 05:25 AM

Really liked the part about building the UI for the target audience.  Us technical types have a tendency to build UI's that make sense to us.

Gordy Filips
on ‎06-24-2014 09:27 AM

Great article!!!   I am implementing SAW now for acustomer and will share some of this.

on ‎06-26-2014 10:38 AM

Good article that hits home for me as a Service Manager developer.  Use cases need to be simple and clear.  You need to keep out as much "noise" on the screen as possible for your users.  And the Service Anywhere UI is a pleasant upgrade from the interface we use in Service Manager.  Interesting stuff!

cmacmillan
on ‎07-08-2014 11:05 AM

It's always helpful - and even required - to see how end users who aren't IT expect a tool to function. In most cases we expect users to "think like IT" which fails us everytime.

Sebastien MORIER
on ‎07-15-2014 09:16 AM

Great job already done on SAW 3.0. 

One thing would like to see in the future : a dashboard version for small resolution on smartphones. Would be very convenient to check that the activity is under control, without the need to open my computer or tablet !

on ‎07-16-2014 01:34 AM

I have to agree with @dkalian, we thechies tend to forget that we build software intended for actual users...

Dávid Kara
on ‎08-01-2014 01:39 PM

Nice to see that HP started over after the long struggle with HP SM. Hope the product will soon be capable of the same as SM is.

on ‎08-05-2014 05:25 AM

Very nice article. Could you explain where the Service Anywhere-icon that looks like a lion comes from?

NTern
on ‎08-08-2014 12:16 PM

Great article. Opened my eyes to the challenges UX designers face.

KaiWinter
on ‎08-11-2014 07:42 AM

To set the user into the focus is probably the best idea, concerning ITSM tools. ITSM so simple as google, facebook or amazon! This is more than one step ahead!

Mark Laird
on ‎08-13-2014 05:38 AM

Well written blog and it's great to hear about the process that goes into the UX design

on ‎08-14-2014 04:33 AM

Great article - I really belive this product is starting to show of it's potential - keep at it!

gerardwijnands
on ‎08-22-2014 03:37 AM

I like the way this is going. Using SM 9.21 the above is a huge step forward and it's getting very close to the user interfaces you see in 'regular' web-applications on the internet.

Pádraig
on ‎09-03-2014 01:13 AM

As someone implementing SAW I have to say you can see that a lot of work went into the UX development.  Lets get the functionality right and we will have a great product. 

dblackeby
on ‎09-08-2014 12:19 AM

I'm pleased to see the focus on user experience especially targetting different user needs (self service vs agent) is clearly a priority, and pleased to see the mobility targetted platform of resizing / suppressing objects based on the target device resolution.

 

However can't help but feel the default user interface is a bit washed out, with black text on white background.  I would like to see defined sections / areas coloured areas to denote important areas.

 

I also don't understand why you limit field labels to a single line and truncate especially when the field object is a multi line element.  For example looking at the first 2 images the label for "Effect for not imple..." is truncated despite the field being a text area that would have enabled the label to wrap onto multiple lines.

on ‎09-12-2014 03:20 PM
I really like the new SAW 3 interface. It is very fresh and modern.
honzah
on ‎09-16-2014 02:08 AM

It is definitely nice interface, but I would appreciate at least one possibility of choosing darker look.

Honored Contributor
on ‎09-17-2014 02:43 PM

 

Hello,

 

@honzah: there is actually a "high-contrast mode" you can select from your user profile (same place where you upload your picture and select the language.

 

Here is an example of what the UI looks like once you select the option.

 

 

 

 

Best regards,

Brindusa

JovanJ
on ‎09-24-2014 05:03 AM

improving UX experience is great and benefit for all, customer and admins

dunky4542
on ‎09-25-2014 09:48 AM

I really like the look of HP Service Anywhere, so clean and simple.  Really looks user friendly.  Great ideas and many of them are what the customer actually wants.

on ‎11-04-2014 05:36 AM

It seems holding neat UI and great intuitive UX for different users and use cases.

I haven't try it yet, but I least I know now how I should  think about UX in Service Manager (we've been using for years now).

Most of our forms hold too much (sometime useless) info. Users (specially end users) just get lost.

 

I always thought improving UX was just a luxury, developers may work once they finish "important" features.
I was wrong as it seems UX is a hard JOB on its own.

AnnMaryJoseph
on ‎11-06-2014 04:25 AM

Very nice article

Joe94
on ‎11-06-2014 06:30 AM

Intersting article. I like the focus on the user experience.  

Omer Faruk
on ‎11-10-2014 02:21 AM

Nice post!. Simplicity and responsiveness are inevitable to have in such a wonderful application.

on ‎11-17-2014 05:52 AM

This is an interesting article. As someone who has developed many UI-centric soulutions in SM over the years, it's good to see more information about this.

 

However, I would like to see more of this UX philosophy to trickle down to where developers are. Some areas of SM, such as Format Control (if not using PD) are still horribly archaic in their layout because they were made in the days that SC worked on an 80 column text terminal.

 

Future versions of SM should also consider removeing all non .g formats as well.

Robert Stubbe
on ‎11-19-2014 04:14 AM

Great article!  I can't wait to see the improvements get carried over to HP Service Manager.

Stuart Crann
on ‎04-29-2015 06:18 AM

Lifecycle is indeed important - it's often overlooked and not everything is as simple as it seems.

Incident, Problem and Change (along with Request and so on) needs to be inextricably linked.

on ‎06-03-2015 04:29 AM

Like the UI and the workflow status identifier, wish some this can be moved to SM soon

darrenj1
on ‎06-17-2015 08:22 AM

looks great, cant wait for our company to get this and start making efficiencies 

James Hamilton
on ‎07-03-2015 04:34 PM
I've been conducting a pilot of Service Anywhere for a couple months. The degree to which UX has been gracefully integrated in to all aspects of the software cannot be overstated. Even the administration interface is well thought out, consistent between screens, and honestly, puts a smile on the face of users.
on ‎08-11-2015 09:27 AM

I haven't seen Service Anywhere yet, but what I have noticed in HP SM is that functions sometimes move around the page. As a regular user of HPSM, it is frustrating to have to stop and look around to see where a function has been moved.

 

Even more frustrating is when a "destructive" function (delete, cancel, etc.) is sitting in the same place as a "constructive" function like "submit", "add", or similar things.

mal_ru
on ‎08-11-2015 02:08 PM

Thanks for so many information, I found out how UX design looks like

J Flanders
on ‎09-28-2015 11:29 AM

A good article to look back on. We have been a SAW customer since February 2015 and love the way HP still engages users for their feedback.

Nikola Pavlov
on ‎02-15-2016 01:14 AM

Great article.

Daniell Petrov
on ‎02-15-2016 01:19 AM

HPE Service Anywhere will be the successor of Service Manager. They share a lot of features and the interface is pretty much the same. As things unfold, the future will be BIG Data and that means Service Anywhere being everywhere.

admiguel
on ‎02-17-2016 05:51 AM

Nice article. We can see how developers plan and design a new tool and the main points to have into account like user experience.

Jeff Hall
on ‎02-26-2016 08:49 PM

Could not agree more with the last statement "Responsive design is not a luxury anymore."

Nikola Pavlov
on ‎02-29-2016 06:52 AM

Great Article. It looks different than SM but actually i like it.

pete willis
on ‎02-29-2016 01:40 PM

Great design. User centric, working on any device.  great stuff.

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