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Can power windows help improve the user experience (UX) of enterprise applications?/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/pw1_230449.png

Making car windows go up and down…what could be simpler?  Interestingly, even this simple utility has experienced growing pains.  Invented in 1940 by Packard, power windows transformed an annoying, and even at times dangerous, manual action into a simple and safe tool (who else remembers bumping the shifter or stepping on the gas while reaching across to roll down the passenger side window?).

Over their 70+ year existence, the location and operation of power window controls has varied.  They have been placed on the center console, high on the dash, low on the dash, split onto either side of the transmission shifter, and of course on the door.  Once I even had a rental car that placed them at the bottom of the dash behind the shifter, usually forcing my eyes off the road just to find and operate the window.  The control interface has also varied, ranging from the early vertical-tab style to the later rocker style, both with varying horizontal and vertical alignments.   Certain variations even had safety implications whereby children could accidentally lean on a switch while peering out the window.

/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/pw2_230448.pngDid these inconsistencies prevent me from opening windows?  No, but it was certainly at times less efficient, and very much annoying and frustrating.  Apparently I was not the only person dissatisfied with the available approaches.  For this and safety reasons, power window controls are now remarkably consistent between autos.  Today, the most common design utilizes a door-mounted, horizontally-oriented, cup style with movement that mirrors the direction of the actual window.  Many include an automatic, one-touch function.  The net?  A consistent, intuitive design was more important (and safer) to drivers than creative, but inconsistent, approaches. 

If such a seemingly small and simple item as the operation of a power window control can frustrate users, how much more frustrating must it be for users to utilize different apps and interfaces on different devices to complete the same basic functions?  Indeed the consumerization of the enterprise has arrived.  The impact social sites, mobile apps and browser-based cloud applications has fundamentally changed user expectations of interface design and function.  And it seems as though not a day passes without the announcement of a new phone, tablet, hybrid or whatever that are used to access applications.  Even so, as with power windows, users want an experience that is simple, intuitive, and consistent.

Yet IT does not want to add additional burden to their already overtaxed workload just to roll out an “easier UI.”  Anything new must actually reduce their support effort and avoid the hassles of traditional UI alternatives such as client deployments.  And what about training users on a new UI?  Zero-training is a must.  Fortunately, technology has matured and emerged that provides previously unmatched capabilities to meet these requirements. 

And SAP Fiori was born.

A collection of apps for frequently used SAP functions, SAP Fiori offers the cross-device, consistent and intuitive UX desired by users.  The initial release includes the 25 most common functions for workflow approvals, information lookups, and self-service tasks for both employees and managers.  Wouldn’t it be great to submit travel expenses the same way whether you are on your smartphone or laptop?  Now you can.

Utilizing response design, SAP Fiori apps automatically and dynamically adjust for any form factor.  Whether you prefer to show all apps in full-screen mode on your desktop, shrink and dock a few apps on the side of your tablet, or do everything on your phone or phablet, SAP Fiori will flex itself accordingly.  It uses simple, intuitive interaction patterns such as swiping that are both touch and mouse friendly.  And with exception-based messages and alerts clearly visible directly on the home tiles of SAP Fiori apps, you’ll quickly know where to focus your attention. 

Not only does SAP Fiori work on your device of choice, you can access functions directly via a URL, collected together on a convenient landing page, or even be embedded in your portal of choice. 

But what about custom workflows or other functions that are not available in SAP Fiori?  Built using modern technology standards such HTML5 and Odata, SAP Fiori is designed for extensibility.  In fact, SAP utilizes the same tools as customers to build SAP Fiori apps.  And SAP Fiori sits right on top of your existing SAP and NetWeaver Gateway infrastructure, so enterprise-class manageability and security is built right in.

Like power windows today, SAP Fiori brings a simple, safe and intuitive user experience to SAP users.  Check out http://experience.sap.com to learn more.

Reach out to me if you’d like to see SAP Fiori in action, or just vent frustrations with other inconsistent interfaces!

Dwayne

dwayne.desylvia@sap.com

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