We love the periodic notices we get from various entities with which we work in our personal lives, entities like banks, mortgage companies, auto-finance companies, credit-card companies, and others. They typically go something like this:
PLEASE NOTE: Our system will be shut down for the Holidays. As a result, it will be offline from New Year’s Day to Christmas Day, during which time you’ll be unable to check anything, schedule anything, pay anything, or withdraw anything. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause you, including but not limited to headaches, bouts of anxiety, defaults, foreclosures, repossessions, liens, derogatory credit reports, or Nasty-Grams from any of your creditors. Have a nice day.
We’re a software shop. We get the fact that software and systems upgrades are necessary and always will be. But does their timing have to be arbitrarily predetermined? And if we extend the necessity of upgrades from our personal lives to our businesses, what does that timing actually have to do with your business and its needs?
It’s About Time
Every provider of every kind of software or system to any kind of business in any industry has to provide things on occasion — upgrades, updates, patches, bug-fixes, new versions, and whatever else might be necessary. If those providers ask you anything at all (sometimes they don’t), they usually ask just two questions:
- Are you ready?
- How ‘bout now?
We think a few other questions might be in order:
- Do you need it?
- Do you need it now?
- Do you have other, more important operational considerations right now?
- Do you know when the upgrade will help you the most or be most advantageous?
- Will you let us know?
That might not be the best way to go about things, but it seems to be the most beneficial.
We don’t know why common sense seems to be so uncommon. But we do know it makes sense to let customers have upgrades at the right time and to let them determine the right time.
Upgrades on your time. That seems pretty common-sensible.
In a conversation about user interfaces the other day, we were reminded of the old saying, typically attributed to an unnamed doctor: “The operation was a success. But the patient died.”
We’re not equating software developers to doctors by any stretch. But it does occur to us that the best software (by any criteria) could give the effect of being DOA if it had an ineffective (by any criteria) user interface.
And there’s another important thing to consider.
Age Isn’t Just a Number
To those of us who aren’t getting any older, this may not seem like a big deal. But it would seem that users of software are getting younger. For the insurance industry, that means agents, CSRs, policyholders, claims adjusters, TPAs, and others that need access to our systems are already accustomed to newer, more intuitive, and very user-friendly technology. To them, legacy interfaces feel like trying to perform surgery with a dull butter knife.
That suggests that — aside from aesthetic appeal and clean simplicity — user interfaces should be:
- Easy to use. The easier they are to use, the more work will be accomplished.
- If users of interfaces can manipulate them to do what they need them to do, the way they want to do it, they’ll be more motivated and efficient, as well as more productive.
- Whether it’s driving tasks in the workflow, completing routine tasks, escalating exceptions, or myriad other activities, automation enables people to spend less time engaged in mundane repetition and more time engaged in more strategic contributions to their organizations.
And there’s yet one more thing to consider.
The Who might have been singing about an entirely different kind of mobility in 1971, but they were on the right track (so to speak). Interfaces that aren’t optimized for and responsive to mobile devices and their designs will be used less frequently. It’s as simple as that. And if your interfaces aren’t going mobile, your expectations should be lower because the number of users certainly will be.
If your constituents can’t access your systems on their smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices to get updates, conduct transactions, and communicate with the requisite parties, they’ll work with someone else whose systems allow them to do all those things.
If we’re smart, we’ll be all up in their interfaces.