Custom Application Development

Oct 17 2007   6:34PM GMT

Small Business Custom Software Development – Always a Challenge

SJC SJC Profile: SJC

Let’s face it – custom software development for a small business is no less work than for a larger operation.  Assuming what is being developed is truly multi-user, perhaps the front-end for a database, or even multiple databases, the same issues have to be addressed.  It is always a challenge for me to design the user interface to meet my high standards.

My standard for the UI?  It is very simple.  I believe that “If a user knows how to do their job, they ought to be able to sit down and use the application to get their job done.”    (…at least that part of their job which can be automated)

But how does one achieve this standard?  While its always a challenge, I believe that it comes down to having access to the people who will be using the particular interface(s).  I spent this morning with a client in just such a meeting.  Once again I was struck by the number of “little” things that came up which would have hugh returns in efficiency for the user.

 I was also reminded once again that the entire targeted user community for an application needs to be considered.  Questions like “Are ALL users going to be computer savvy?”, and “Are there language issues to be considered?”, or “How will users be trained?” are all very valid questions that need to be answered.  In many instances, proper design of the user interface will assist all around.

Yes, my experience is mostly with small companies — but aren’t the challenges the same for a large company?  How many times in a business situation have you seen an interface that was just plain “klunky”, or would allow you to do things that you shouldn’t, resulting in an ill-timed error.  This inevitably leads to user frustration.

 Making the program “user friendly” is aided by simplicity of the user interface design.  (Yet as developers know, doesn’t necessarily mean easy behind the scenes.).  Custom software development — it truly is “Always a challenge”.

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  • LadyRatri
    Beyond just tolerating "klunkiness", it's always a surprise when business or operational process is designed around the deficiencies of a tool or its interface -- especially when it adds significantly to the time it takes users to do their day-to-day work. Having moved into an application development group after starting out in operations, I have a first-hand view of that frustration. You make a good point about a very real, and often overlooked, problem. A brilliant worker can't make up for a poorly designed application. I feel like too often, we have trouble gaining access to the specific people who will be "in the trenches" using an application, and end up talking to business owners further up the management tree instead of team members or leads who spend their time doing the work and living the specific details and problems our applications are designed to address. It's like playing a game of telephone -- the messages always get garbled.
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