Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Simplifying Navigation: Thoughts

One of the key factors to a successful implementation (of anything) is to make navigation as simple and intuitive as possible to the end users. Or to perhaps put it another way - confusion is the enemy and should be avoided at all costs. This is not to say that the default navigation of Dynamics CRM is unintuitive - in fact I would argue that the opposite is in fact the case. However there are many different levels of end users of Dynamics CRM and this often depends on the kind of market vertical it is being applied to.

For example, if CRM is deployed into a Professional Services organizations the end users are likely to be very computer literate and will likely take to adopting CRM like a duck to water and may even curtail substantial simplification of the UI so that they can navigate the application as they see fit (which may vary from end to end user - a practice which I personally don't encourage but certainly won't stand in the way of).

On the flip side, if CRM is deployed into a Financial Services organization the end users are likely to be much less computer literate. And any additional "options" for navigation that I personally may think are quite intuitive may in fact herald the unwanted "confusion" bogeyman.

Therefore - returning to my earlier statement - what I personally may think about the relative intuitiveness of the application is irrelevant. I need to be able to try and view it through the end users who will ultimately be navigating the application and responsible for the success of that deployment. And consequently it is crucial to take into account and understand what the level of the typical end user is going to be when it comes to configuring the end user interface.

Bottom line - if in fact your typical end user in a CRM deployment is the type that is on the "technology challenged" sector of society, then you'd better ensure that your CRM is locked down to a certain extent limiting navigation to the minimum in order to be able to do what needs to get done.

That all being said, I do believe that there are certain universal truths when it comes to the deployment of the UI navigation:

  • Keep it relevant - For example, if a client does not use invoices in their CRM deployment, then make sure they don't see the invoices navigation option.
  • Permissions - Ensure users only see what they should and nothing more.
  • Simplify - Do not over complicate when it comes to design. Balance the "purist" relational approach with realistic scenarios in terms of how users will actually use the system (a key metric for this is the number of clicks involved in a particular action)
  • Walkthroughs - Prepare walkthrough documents that users can reference for a particular function
  • Training - Obviously provide the necessary training

In the next series of posts I will attempt to highlight some of the more novel UI navigation simplification ideas that I've experimented with.

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