By Jacob de Lichtenberg, chief product officer, Forecast
A year on since the first lockdown rocked the working world (and the entire planet), remote working has become as quotidien as your morning cup of coffee. The early part of 2020 was about keeping our heads down, adjusting to meetings at the kitchen table and staying safe. But whatever the future of work looks like, what are the lasting changes on what staff want? How can businesses help develop a more skilled and happier workforce, prepared for whatever the future brings?
In 2020, more of us looked to upskill – particularly in digital – whether that was out of necessity or for new employment opportunities. This thirst for knowledge, as people’s job remits continue to expand, blur and evolve won’t go anywhere. Businesses should harness this appetite to learn and ‘upskill by stealth’, through clever tech that allows you to explore and learn as you go. It is highly beneficial for companies to implement software that is easy to learn and use. This is often underestimated in software selection because you may be faced with a long criteria list. But the point is it will never be successful if it isn’t used. You want to foster curiosity and enjoyment to ensure staff want to keep engaging with it and pushing the limits of their skills – becoming more and more expert and empowered with each subsequent use.
Businesses should want to empower staff with the tools they have, and create an enjoyable experience for employees using them. So, how can businesses choose the right technology for their employees to promote learning and upskilling? And what exactly is learnability?
Learnability in tech is where interfaces are designed in order to allow users to become familiar with them quickly and are able to easily interact with all the capabilities and features. Learnability is one part of usability and is usually discussed within the context of user interface or user experience (UX) design, in addition to usability and user acceptance testing.
The tech with the best learnability follows the iceberg approach: a simple interface, with more complex features “hidden” so as not to overwhelm or turn people off right away. A customer or user should take only five seconds to take in and understand what a page is about. Every user needs to get through the initial learning curve with any new platform or product, and this curve should be plain sailing – or you’ll lose them from the off.
Great B2B software UX can also benefit from looking out of its own sector and at other verticals. For example, the likes of Netflix and Google Maps have dominated their respective industries thanks to simple, easy to use interfaces where new users can intuitively and quickly use the platform for their immediate need, and discover new, more complex features if they choose to do so.
So what are the basics for creating best in class UX and learnability?
Keep it simple. Hide more complex features in the beginning, revealing them only as users intuitively get to know the platform better. Streamlined, clear and straightforward design and layout not only looks slicker but makes navigation easier. Trying to put all of the platform’s menus, buttons and features on a single screen is a common mistake and not conducive to good UX. Squeezing in all the features of your tech onto one screen may offer an overview of sorts, but our brains can only take in so many options at a time – best to keep things as clear as possible and let people explore.
A good onboarding experience can also help. This can show your user the ropes, while also engaging them. You want users to feel invested and active, and to give them a sense of discovery and agency. It’s also important to show users the benefits of using the product, and helping them understand why they should invest time and effort into learning how to use it.
We’ve all experienced a bad web or app interface, that makes you groan and roll your eyes at the thought of using it – or makes you want to throw your laptop across the room when it doesn’t work properly. Let’s aim higher than UX being merely adequate and functional – it can actually be enjoyable with the right design in place.
Ultimately, a focus on tech learnability can empower workforces, leading them to happier, healthier working lives. And happier workforces mean better work – it’s a win-win for everyone.