UX and UI: Why better-designed software makes you more productive

I have just enough sheetrock experience to know that using the right tools produces better craftsmanship in less time.

I have just enough sheetrock experience to know that using the right tools produces better craftsmanship in less time. A sharp cordless rotary blade makes the job go faster and results in a clean finish-and that's a great feeling.

Every member of your team wants to excel, and we have all experienced that singular feeling when we complete a task well. Having the right tools empowers your team. The way I see it, management software is a tool of the trade, and great software is created when the designers keep an eye on the UX and the UI.

The whats? Lucky for you, the opportunity to learn these two new terms is yours. At your next dinner party, you'll make quite the impression when you speak with confidence about UX (user experience) and UI (user interface). You can thank me later.

Don Norman, a cognitive scientist, is credited with inventing the term in 1990. He declared that "user experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products."1

Management software is only as good as the company's ability to support it. If you can't speak to the help desk in a timely manner, just how good is the software? While most doctors don't experience the frustration of waiting on the phone to speak to a live person, office managers know it well.

Implementation and training are also key. Most software companies are carrying over implementation and training processes developed in the 1990s. If your practice loses one or two days of production in order to accommodate training, that's bad business and a bad UX. Cloud-based management solutions, in contrast, can have a less invasive implementation process while being more effective in retention.

Community and a sense of partnership are important to the UX. A faceless organization is not fun to work with. The UX is enhanced when a customer has the ability to connect with the executive management team or is recognized by a support technician. Curve Dental, for example, invites all of its customers to a summit meeting where they can rub shoulders with the president of the company, share ideas, learn more about the software, and create a partner relationship.

UI, as opposed to UX, is the actual design of the software. I hold good software design to three standards:

1. An invitation to jump in: Good software design draws you in and makes you want to explore. The cleaner the look, the better the UI-the old adage "less is more" will never go out of style.

2. The "you are here!" principle: You can quickly understand how the data is organized, so you can master its functionality and put it to work faster. The UI is critical in helping you figure out where you're at and where you need to go.

3. A feeling of déjà vu: A sense of familiarity from the first time you use the software. When most North Americans use Facebook, designing the UI for a web browser makes tremendous sense because your team already understands how to navigate in a web environment. Sadly, much of the management software in use in dentistry today was designed in the 1990s and fails this standard.

An accomplished UI is the result of hard work, testing, and trial and error. "The active engagement of our customers provides the validation and critical eye to help us deliver an exceptional product," says Curve Dental Senior UX designer Geoff Brennan. "We apply customer feedback to our UI directly and deliberately. Not only does our UI look great, but the workflow makes our customers more productive. It is bold, it is graphical, and it is intentional."

In his book The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda says, "While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear."2 Effective UI provides your team with clarity and empowerment. Who would disagree that an empowered team is a more productive team? With a sharp UX and proven UI your team will help you build a killer practice.

Andy Jensen is VP and CMO at Curve Dental, a software development company that provides web-based management solutions for dentists and dental groups. He recently completed a new book, How to Build the Killer Practice on the Cloud, that can be found at curvedental.com/killer-practice/.

References

1. Norman D, Nielsen J. The Definition of User Experience. Nielsen Norman Group website. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/definition-user-experience/. Accessed January 12, 2017.

2. Maeda J. The Laws of Simplicity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press; 2006:70.

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