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Pete Lagana

SAP Mobile UIs - Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Pete Lagana in pete.lagana on Apr 14, 2011 1:11:11 PM

Making SAP simple.  That's our mission.  It’s a big statement, for sure, but we willingly and gladly enter into the fray.  We've spent years working with SAP User Interfaces such as WebDynpro, JSP DynPage, BobJ UIs, and CRM UIs to name a few.  We’ve learned that customers who’ve made a significant investment in SAP really want to get the most out of it – and many times that leads to better, simpler UIs.

 

 

We also design native mobile applications, and we bring this experience to the table as well. We've learned that a traditional UX background comes in handy when designing a best practice mobile UI as well.  Combining traditional web based UI chops with mobile design skills allows us to take a full scale approach to SAP Usability - and to really make certain mobile design points stand out by differentiating from web based apps.  And, so its from that perspective that we've lived through some bumps and bruises along the way to achieve great SAP UIs, and we understand the history there.  While its true that traditional SAP Web App UIs have taken some hits from a usability perspective, the time is right to help SAP Mobile UIs flourish where traditional SAP UIs have faltered.

 

 

And the timing couldn’t be better. 

 

 

The explosion of mobility could be the beginning of a new dawn for SAP Usability – right from the get go.  I think, to a large extent, the sins of past UI missteps can be made whole with a fresh take and focus on SAP Mobile UIs.  

 

 

It’s our goal to take SAP UIs from also ran, to market leader, one app at a time– and SAP Mobile UIs could help lead the charge.

 

But it’s not just SAP.  Mobile enterprise apps need better UIs across the board.  I wrote recently about some mobile app design points, which if adhered to, will help make mobile enterprise application UIs stand out from the rest. 

 

       

The take really comes from how mobile expectations have risen so high, and continue to do so.  Users don’t care that a mobile application is labeled as “enterprise” or “consumer”.  Clearly, as it stands now, mobile UI expectations tend to be driven from the consumer side.

 

To echo this sentiment, Eric Lai recently picked up on this trend as well.  Eric spells out some Unaddressed Pain Points from Enterprise Mobility  Guess what - number one on the list?  Better UIs for mobile enterprise apps.

 

And we concur.

 

Mobile UI design and branding is a commonplace topic which we cover with clients with amazing, increasing frequency.  There’s no slowing the topic down - it only seems to heat up.  Everyone wants great mobile apps, and customers view enterprise apps by the same guidelines used to judge any app they may download from the Apple Appstore or from the Android Marketplace.

 

The point is, people expect more from their Mobile UIs – they want appealing, easy, and fast.  So whether it's a Sybase-driven app built upon SUP, or a Syclo app built upon Agentry, the same set of expectations apply – appealing, easy, and fast. 

 

So, with this in mind, we wanted to discuss some common mobile UI mistakes that ruin the mobile user’s experience.  Some mistakes that we should look to avoid - if we want to create a best in class app that exceeds the growing UI expectations of the mobile user base. 

 

Here, we’ll mention three of the most common pitfalls to avoid.

 

1.  Miniaturizing, not mobilizing.  Many times this mistake is manifested due to a lack of understanding the true difference between desktop and mobile.  Its not just about size.  It’s about context. With mobile, you have to be prepared to serve up an experience from anywhere, at any time, knowing distractions are routine.  The UI must account for this.  Additionally, there's accounting for the input devices - no, not plug ins via USB, but how you get data into the device.  With desktop, its the user's 10 fingers, with mobile, its typically the users' fingertip.  Care must be taken to truly mobilize the UI, not just make it smaller.

 

 

Mobilize, Don't Miniaturize

 

 

2.  Violation of “Three Clicks” rule.  This could be manifested as the three click/tap/press rule as well.  This has a lot to do with the information architecture of the mobile app.  Every good mobile app allows the user to get where they need to go with minimal clicks.  So, in the design, account for that in the mobile site map.  It should definitely not take a lot of taps or clicks to get where the user needs to go, in all cases.  The below example depicts a flat IA (information architecture) on the left, and a deep IA on the right.

 

 

Three Click Rule

 

 

3.  Not Reusing Learned Behaviors.  Learned behaviors are the actions and UI elements users get used to within your application.  These are things like soft keys and navigation.  In the example below, this represents what not to do.  The UI here is plentiful, to be sure, but confusing.  Its not about quantity, its about quality.

 

 

Learned Behaviors

 

 

These are tangible mistakes to avoid when designing SAP Mobile Applications.  It really all starts with having a mobile mindset from the start and that out of the box only gets you so far.  Whether the app is packaged, or customized, there will always be a level of UX that needs to be adjusted, built, or overhauled.  In the UI world, especially in mobility, one size doesn’t always fit all.  If we take some time to avoid some of the common pitfalls at the outset, we can get much closer to meeting mobile users’ rising UI expectations.

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