At Allbound we’re more than just a software company. We’re a team of passionate individuals working together to change the way sales and marketing is accomplished in the channel. Our user experience champion is #AllStar Director of UX Ryan Sherman, our playlist-creating, kayak-paddling, master of software usability and beauty.
In your opinion, what’s the difference between business software and personal software?
I think I really hate the terms “business software” because somehow that implies that business software is different from personal software. You know, we’ve got this personal software we use in our personal life like iTunes and Uber, and business software somehow is different … like we’ve lowered the bar when it comes to business software, and that’s one of the things at Allbound that we’re really trying to change. Your business life and your personal life — they’re really one in the same. I mean, I spend most of my day using business software not personal software. We want to make a great user experience — the same kind of user experience that you expect from your music software or ride sharing software or your social media software platforms. It should be easy, it should be fun, it should be engaging, and it should be something that people really want to use.
Why is user experience and intelligent software design so important?
Some people think that design is superfluous, that it’s just something that’s a nice-to-have but is not necessary. But when we focus on user experience, there’s four main components. There’s clarity, slow, relevance and utility. We get some of the traditional business software applications out there and most of them have the utility part down (I mean, hopefully, otherwise no one’s going to be using it). Some of them even have the relevance down, but if they miss out on the clarity and the flow people aren’t going to be engaged with it, excited about using it, and it will become a chore as opposed to something they’ll want to do and want to use.
Interesting. From the perspective of a software user (not a designer or developer), that makes sense. A good experience should just, well, “be,” right?
I read something a couple of days ago that kind of hit home for me: User experience is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s probably not that good. And I think that’s really the way I feel about our software. We want people to be able to engage with it, go in there, and click on it and discover things and make it very, very intuitive. For instance, I see this new feature and I see this is exactly how I’d expect it to work, and that’s the way that it works.
So, how do you make sure you are creating a great user experience inside of Allbound?
When it comes to designing the software and planning out new features and reiterating over existing features, because we’re the champions for our customers, our customers are our primary source of feedback. We don’t want to build a product that we’re happy about, we want to build a product that our customers are happy about as well.
I know when we talk to a lot of people about their partner software, a big issue we hear time and time again is a lack of partner rep engagement. Companies invest sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in things like partner portals (shudder) and then they complain that no one uses it. They just revert right back to calling and emailing their channel account managers.
I think one of the ways that we help keep people engaged is we try to keep things as absolutely simple as possible and reduce all the noise and the clutter— which is a surprisingly difficult thing to do. Designing simple solutions is extremely complex. We try to put ourselves in the end-user’s mind so every time we create a new feature we’ll look back and go, is this as simple as it could be? Is it understandable? Does this have to be explained to them, or is this something they can figure out on their own? Because if it has to be explained to them and it’s not intuitive enough to use it, then we’ve failed at our job and we need to go back and do it again.
That’s definitely a great approach, and I think you’re right and people probably forget that it IS harder to build something that is both simple and effective.
We believe that there is a simple way, there’s always a simple way, because if we keep doing things the same way that we’ve been doing it then nothing’s actually going to change. And that’s the actual definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, if we want to make true, impactful change and really bring change to the channel, we can just look different on the outside, we’ve actually got to be different. We’ve got to think different and we’ve got to do things differently.