old commodore console
PHOTO: Anastasia Dulgier

Many companies build pages and systems designed for internal customers, a.k.a. their employees, who need information to do their jobs. This could take the form of a desktop website, a portal, a SharePoint form, a mobile app, a data crunching and visualization tool, or something else. However, too often companies decide that for these internal projects they don’t need to “do UX.”

These decisions are often made by leaders who have low understanding of UX. They view it as something unimportant that burns time and money with little to no reward. But with better overall UX knowledge they would understand that great UX workers would:

  • Work to understand co-worker’s needs for the tool. How will they use it? What tasks do they need to accomplish with it? What are they doing now, what workarounds have they created, and what could improve their processes?
  • Make co-workers’ jobs easier by researching, designing, testing and iterating on internal tools that really match users’ needs.
  • Save engineering time by developing a vetted, awesome product once rather than drowning in change requests or having to fix it down the road when you learn too late that people are unhappy.

Caring About Co-Workers’ Efficiency

When we refuse to build a better product for our co-workers, we’re telling them we don’t care if they struggle to do their job because of a poorly designed system. And as many of your co-workers have jobs that involve helping external customers, this also means you are sending the message that you don’t care if your external customers receive help, information, or services in a timely and efficient manner.

How about your co-workers who make commission based on products or services they sell from these systems? What about co-workers with quotas of how many customers they need to serve each day? Your internal data or reporting tool project might have leadership or executives as the customers. Do we still want to ignore what decision makers need to work smarter?

None of your co-workers want to hear, “You’ll just have to figure out whatever we build for you.” Put that empathy hat on and remember the times a company treated you like you’d just have to suffer through what they released and “get used to it.”

Additionally, if the answer to a poor user interface is, “We’ll train them on it later,” or, “We’ll write a long manual they’ll have to read,” calculate the cost to create the training or manual and the cost of the time people will need to spend trying to learn how to use the tool. You might find that investing in the UX process saved a lot of money later on manuals, tutorials and live or video training.

Related Article: Sound Familiar? 4 Phrases That Show Your Employee Experience Needs Work

If the Product Is Shallow or Screens Are Simple

Typically, a “shallow product” is a page or process flow that’s fairly short. Without huge tasks to accomplish, someone might assume that we don’t need to spend the time or budget on good UX work. That decision is unlikely to have come from the end user; surely your customers haven’t indicated they love this page or flow and wouldn’t want someone working on it to make it better.

UX should still be involved in research, design, testing — the entire UX process. A page or form having few choices doesn’t mean content and information are presented well. Remember online forms in the old days and how often we used to hit “reset form” when we meant to hit “submit form”? Those were two simple choices, yet we clicked the wrong one with some frequency.

Related Article: The Intersection of Employee Experience and Customer Experience

Employee Satisfaction Leads to Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is king whether our users are paying, not paying, or our own co-workers. In the case of our co-workers, happier co-workers who have an easier time using our internal tools will create ripple effects. Let’s work to improve their ability to get their jobs done and better serve our external customers in the process.