Organizations necessarily juggle layers of intricacies from business rules to departmental needs, regulatory requirements to customer service. In considering digital products and how users of those products may interact with complex internal systems and data, issues around data handling, security, access, and interactions can lead to complicated architectural and data models. This is where a simple, intuitive interface becomes essential in order to provide valuable, rewarding access to otherwise complicated systems.
All too often, interfaces designed and built to interact with complex systems and data become unintuitive, needlessly complex, and just plain hard to use because they fail to abstract away the system complexity into an interface, interactions, and access to information that benefits users.
Abstracting away complexity
While abstraction is a core tenet of computer science, it’s often found that engineering-led products fail to deliver compelling, usable interfaces due to a lack of abstraction.
Here’s how you can identify a lack of abstraction which limits the value of a product:
- databases are mapped 1:1 to an interface, which is especially prevalent with forms that force users to dig through requirements and complicated language in order to input and view data
- business requirements are front and center, with complicated interaction models and language in place to prevent behaviour, instead of designing a simple, intuitive interface that serves user needs, while also adhering to business rules
- users are asked to do all the work, instead of the system providing increasing value with every click, whether that may be by providing intelligent recommendations, helping organize information, or other automated methods.
- navigation models are inherently unintuitive to users as they have to learn industry terminology or work through internal processes and flows instead of using familiar terms and following the natural behavioural models of your core users.
The more complex your system, the simpler your interface needs to be.
Users aren’t concerned about the complexity of your system, but how a simple, intuitive interface can allow rewarding interaction with the system.
While designing an interface, it is important to find the balance between the complexity of the organization, rules, and data, and providing a compelling experience for your user. An interface that does not put user needs first is one that will suffer low adoption and poor ongoing engagement.
The challenge is this: in most cases, there is always an alternative to your interface. Whether it’s taking up costly time at your call centre, requiring hands-on support, or, worse still, switching altogether to a competitor, the cost of a poorly executed interface is both measurable and profound.
Succeed by making the interface a rewarding alternative for users
Users have a variety of ways of solving the problem you’ve designed your organization, system, and interface around. If your way isn’t a better way, you’ll lose them.
There are existing processes users follow, whether digital or offline, with or without your organization, including through competition or their own personal methods. Your job in designing an interface is to provide increasing value for your user over these alternatives. If not, you limit the incentive to try and then continue to use your digital product.
Remember, the familiar is always easier. Your interface needs to be more efficient, enjoyable, or informative than any current user process, or you end up wasting your investment in digital by suffering low adoption.
Simple and intuitive wins over complex every time
If you’re having challenges translating complex business processes and systems into a simple, intuitive interface for your users, we’re here to help. Learn more about our approach to product design.