The Key to an Effective Warehouse Management App: User-Centric Design

The Key to an Effective Warehouse Management App: User-Centric Design

The Key to an Effective Warehouse Management App: User-Centric Design

Custom mobile apps are effective tools for improving the Warehouse and Inventory Management process. However, a robust application with the best-of features can be rendered ineffective if the product itself is not usable. The key to launching an effective warehouse app is to create a user-centric experience that genuinely aids employees in improving productivity and performance. Let’s dive into what this means in more detail.

What do we mean by user-centric?

We mean: understanding the user, tasks, and environment surrounding the application. Poor usability can lead to user frustration and in turn, reduce overall productivity. The need for user-centric design is crucial when speaking of warehouse and inventory management applications — after all, these are the tools equipped to workers to perform their job effectively on a daily basis.

Some off-the-cuff strategies I’ve seen personally help Shockoe in deploying a great warehouse application include:

  • Get to know your user
  • Understanding the work environment and its nuances
  • Be flexible and aim for continuous improvement.

This was the core of our strategy with one of the nation’s largest electronics distributors, a warehouse management app that would go on to recognize our team with RichTech’s 2018 Technology Builder Award.

Know your user

Employees know the in’s and out’s of their daily tasks better than anyone else. They can often expose golden nuggets of information to help improve app flows as well as desired user-experiences. Whether you shadow workers or conduct interviews, the key is to expose needs and pain-points in the day-to-day. This information will give you the greatest insight as to how to design an effective warehouse solution that is easy and truly helps improve daily task performance. Below are pain-points we uncovered with one of our clients as well as how we applied that knowledge to the next generation of their warehouse application:

  • Pain-Point A: Product walkthroughs with workers revealed a need for clear, simple, and intuitive user flows. Solution: Minimal screen design, and clear CTAs on-screen to reduce distractions.
  • Pain-Point B: The small interface and visual elements on the previous scanners made it difficult to interact with the device. Solution B: Go large! We helped implement larger screens and from a design-standpoint included large text and bolder visual elements
  • Pain-Point C: Workers struggled to juggle boxes and packages while attempting to interact with small format scanners. Solution C: Large format CTA’s now make it easier to interact with the screen, even with busy hands

 

Understand the warehouse environment

Where a warehouse app is used can greatly influence whether a design is effective or not. Some important environmental factors to note include: lighting, noise, common distractions, and present equipment. Warehouse environments produce unique challenges; fork-lifts, conveyor belts, endless rows of supply, and obstacles should all be documented and considered in the user-experience — here are a few things we saw at within the warehouse that impacted the next version of the application:

  • Pain-point A: Multiple environmental distractions (steady stream of noise, bustling workers) and placing the tablet down made it likely to miss important alerts. Solution A: We made notifications large, bold, and sticky (make sure they stay on screen until dismissed)
  • Pain-point B: Finding the right box with the right item could be tricky at times Solution B: We Incorporated a label identification system (Area, Aisle, Bay, Tier, Position) into the app so that workers can match it to the physical product. see example below:

 

Flexibility & continuous improvement

This is a part of a strategy that’s unfortunately often overlooked. Companies are constantly growing, changing, and improving; the tools in place should do the same. Even great apps should be tested with users and iteratively improved over time. They should also be designed with flexibility in mind — sometimes the best ideas don’t work as expected, and being able to pivot to an alternative solution is critical to the app’s overall success. Not doing so, could mean greater failure for the rest of the features that do in-fact work. Here are a few areas we saw the need to pivot with our client’s  warehouse solution and ensure its ongoing success:

  • Pain-point A: App testing revealed manual-workarounds being performed by employees to relabel already picked inventory Solution: Workers were given a custom print option to create labels that would reflect proper quantities and date codes all from within the app
  • Pain-point B: The company’s employees required different features for different roles. Solution: We incorporated a responsive user experience that would shift the interface to match the job function of the current user.

 

Every company, every process, and every employee are different —  that’s why taking a user-centric approach to design is essential towards an app’s success. It is up to the designers and strategist to always have the end-user in mind. A blanketed approach to a user-experience could yield great results for one warehouse management system, but a disaster for another. The key to a successful inventory management app is to start from the ground floor and focus on understanding the end-user, the environment, and remain flexible with your team.

Angela Balzano

Angela Balzano

UX/UI Designer

Ange is a Rhode Island native with a passion for problem-solving and a flair for design. She specializes in strategy work and creating intuitive user experiences. Her long-standing career in technology design has led her to become mobile UX/UI expert with an emphasis on enterprise application usability… oh, and she loves crime podcasts.

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

Minimalism is not only a rising trend because it’s great to look at, it is also a very effective tool for improving user experience. We’ve all seen the stunning clean and minimalistic portfolio page or weather app, but it’s not so clear how this simplistic design approach could be implemented in complicated enterprise/business applications. As a designer, I am often faced with the difficult task of striking the perfect balance between having a simple and clean UI while displaying the necessary information to the user.

The goal for every designer and company is a more functional and usable application. Minimalism is a way to help achieve this goal using simplicity and clean design to communicate information effectively to users. In this article I will outline some of the key principles of minimal design and how to apply them to any design regardless of how complex.

1 | Clear Goals & Hierarchy

The very first step for ensuring a clear and effective design, especially for complex applications, is to set clear goals. Every single design decision should help achieve these goals. This means without have a clear idea as to what the users and the company need to achieve, you cannot effectively create a minimalistic design. These goals will set the foundation for every design decision you make.

TIP: Often-times it takes initial research and user interviews to determine what goals and information is most important to both the company and the users. Below is a few examples off of our recent project for JB Hunt. 

How to Apply Minimalism to Complex Apps

2 | Show the Essentials

Anything that does not help to achieve the top goals of an app/screen should be hidden. This allows for the important information to take center stage. For complex business applications, you must be VERY careful when it comes to deciding what should be hidden to the user. Productivity could decrease by showing too little or too much information. It also helps to set up a clear hierarchy of information.

TIP: Hierarchy is commonly displayed on a screen using size, shadows, fades, and blurs.

3 | Spotlights and CTAs

It is important to call the user’s attention to the most important information on a screen. The user should naturally be drawn to the most important content and/or action area on the screen. The same goes for any call-to-actions.

TIP: You can create a spotlight or click to action (CTA) by using an accent color, increasing size, adding animation or audio to highlight content and make it the center focus. Here’s an example of our design for Valacta & CanWest DHI Dairy App.

4 | Negative Space

There is something magical about whitespace. Large amounts of negative space is probably one of the most recognized characteristics of minimal interface design.

TIP: Try doubling the amount of space and you’ll undoubtedly see a cleaner, clearer, and more modern design emerge.

5 | Limited Color and Fonts

Color is an important factor in clean minimal design. Simple color schemes not only make for clean visuals, they actually improve usability. If you are having trouble with making a design look simple, try reducing the amount of colors you are using. The same goes for fonts. Using many fonts can confuse the user and make an app look messy. Sticking to the idea that “less is more” you should try to limit the number to 2 fonts max.

TIP: Try using a monochromatic color scheme and one simple font to create a modern minimalistic look. Check out https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/ to create a simple color pallet (try using monochromatic, complementary, or shades.) Also, an example of a couple screen with monochromatic color scheme we did for AC Moore.

A.C. Moore

6 | Reduce Clutter

The simplest way to help a design look more clean and modern is to reduce visual clutter as much as possible. If the point is still clear without a certain element, then remove it!

TIP: One popular strategy in minimal design includes removing borders and lines and using space to group or separate elements.

Essentially, minimalism is one of the most effective ways to communicate with users. Although most apps will never be able to reach the minimalism of Google, many complex applications can be made more effective by applying the principles of minimal design. If you consistently take away elements until nothing else can be removed except what is absolutely necessary, you will find that you have a more user-friendly application for customers or employees to use. It is a balancing act, but one that is simple to learn.

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