Is feature porn killing usability in enterprise software?

Is feature porn killing usability in enterprise software?

Nowadays, everything comes with features: my toothbrush comes with an added tongue scratcher, my morning cereal is fortified with all sorts of stuff and even my air freshener sports a motion detector. Enterprise software is no different; it might not come with added vitamins, but it’s certainly oozing features out of every USB socket.

Lately, we have been working with a number of organisations whose main offering comes with a screen interface: contact centre solutions, BI software, risk management tools, etc. A common problem many people recognise but most fail to do anything about, is that bad usability can make using all this stuff a daunting task.

The proliferation of complex, yet well designed environments such as Facebook, Google+ and tablet interfaces creates dextrous, empowered and impatient users all over the world. The companies that make such environments realised a long time ago that good user experience is a big factor in securing their audience’s loyalty and endorsement. So one would be forgiven for thinking that enterprise software has followed a similar route to riches, paved with relentless prototyping, user testing and commitment to continuous UI improvement.

Alas, not only does enterprise software leave most usability boxes unticked, but also the very principle of usability is absent throughout the software’s life span. The main culprit for this is a universal lust for features. From planning to development and from selling to tracking, the complete business model of enterprise software tends to be based around features. It is not difficult to see why. A feature is easy to grasp and understand; you can see it, talk about it, box it, sell it, benchmark it, track it and measure its ROI. Usability on the other hand is an intangible science, whose potential benefits can be easily overlooked without proper induction and guidance.

Yet, I am an optimist. Users are getting ever more shrewd, HTML5 is pushing user experience to new unexplored levels and iPads are taking sexy interfaces to the ends of the boardroom. Corporations are showing interest and usability is now on the discussion table. I am confident that sooner or later words will turn into actions and working at a contact centre might never be the same again.

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