Four Retail Inventory Management App Best Practices

Four Retail Inventory Management App Best Practices

Starting Your Inventory Management App Off Right

When designing a retail inventory management app, it’s crucial to do a lot of heavy lifting in the preliminary stages of design to ensure that the transition from the client’s old system to their new retail app is seamless, intuitive, and incorporates just what they need to get the job done right. From concept to delivery, the retail inventory app design process requires research, attention to detail, inspiration, testing, and refining. By keeping the following tips in mind during the design process, you can be sure to deliver a quality app that your client and their employees will love. Here are four best practices to develop an effective retail inventory management app:

  1. Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs
  2. Find out What the App Users Need
  3. Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design
  4. Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now, let’s look at each best practice in more depth.

Best Practice 1.) Do Your Homework on the Client’s Needs

Prior to diving into a design project, it’s important to ask the right questions in order to understand 1) why the business prioritized this project, 2) the process/tasks employees are being asked to do, and which parts are the most challenging, and 3) how the system (including APIs) works in order to design around limitations or suggest changes accordingly. These questions are crucial, along with other obvious questions, like what equipment/device does the client foresee using, how many stores do they have, how many employees will be using this solution, who has admin privileges, and how will admin use differs from that of general employees? This initial info-gathering stage is key in the design process because having the team and the stakeholders “in the know” is necessary when making a polished, efficient, and effective app that everyone is proud of.   design_agile_shockoe

Best Practice 2.) Find out What the App Users Need 

Once you’re confident with the client-provided requirements data, the interview process should transition from the stakeholders to their employees. Sitting behind a screen, it can be easy to gloss over seemingly minor details, but those minor details can impact the people on the other end and affect their job performance daily. By focusing on details such as how the user will input data to the app and how they will maneuver around in it, you will be able to design a new system that will be effective and intuitive for all users and will replace outdated systems that might require quirky shortcuts and workarounds. Vital to this step is gathering client data, studying the data, and researching and implementing said research, all the while incorporating your interview results with the employees/users. If you don’t understand their procedures, keep the dialogue going until you understand their daily routine, in order to provide them with the solutions they’re looking for. app-user-needs

Best Practice 3.) Create an Inspired, Intuitive Design

Once you have all the details worked out, start working out the app flow. Put the pen to the paper, the markers on the whiteboard, and let the heavy brainstorms pour inspired innovative ideas. This process will require multiple iterations and failures so you can reach the holy grail of design solutions for your client. In order to achieve this level of design fruition, you will need to research design trends (Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance), your client’s app (if they have one), and their competitors’ apps (if they have them). Expand your design horizon outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be satisfied with safe designs; mediocre designs don’t break any new ground or impress clients. That being said, try not to reinvent the wheel either. It’s great to have inspiration, but it’s up to you to be innovative while also staying intuitive. intuitive-design

Best Practice 4.) Test Your Design, and Redesign as Necessary

Now that you have shiny, impressive, and modern designs, it’s time to test. Your design has to exceed expectations. So, even though you’ve interviewed a variety of people, researched every corner of Google, and spent countless hours in Sketch, Xd, or your design app of choice, you still need to test the app out. The testing results will likely incur some redesigns, as any good test would. It’s important to ensure that the user flow makes sense, which is why you’ll test your prototypes with the client’s employees. Remember, these employees are the experts in their job field. They know what they need to complete their job successfully and what will make their day-to-day work routine more efficient. Listen to their every complaint, concern, and compliment. Redesigns can be fun. They often make us rethink what we thought we knew or understood. This could be a eureka moment for a designer, their team, and possibly the client. At most, it should only require some simple, but effective, design tweaks in order for the user to know what’s what. So tweak away, tighten it up, and bust out of your design bubble. Find the sweet spot everyone’s looking for and apply your groundbreaking ideas to your designs. Finally, make sure any, and I mean any, users will know how your designs work—intuitively. test-your-design

Key Points for Retail Inventory Apps 

Be sure to keep these points in mind when designing an app for retail inventory solutions:

  • Listen: The stakeholders typically have a good idea of what they’re looking for.
  • Answer these essential questions:
    • Why does the business (client) want this inventory app? Know their KPI (Very important!)
    • How does the system currently work? (APIs and integration)
    • What are the client’s current pain points? (This is where we can REALLY help, by improving on what doesn’t currently work.)
    • What works? (What do employees like about the current system?)
    • What type of equipment are you designing the inventory app for? (What type of device will employees use to access the app? Will they need a sling or a harness if they’re unloading a truck?)
    • What is the client’s budget? (A necessary evil.)
  • Follow up. Have constant communication and keep everyone in the loop. Interview the client’s employees to make sure you’re including everything they need to do their job well.
  • Prototype your designs, and see what works and what might need to be tweaked or rethought to make the app intuitive and easy to use.
  • There’s always room for improving the design until you get it right.

Look Towards the Future Once your super-powered retail inventory app is developed, there will be updates, which require continued communication between you and the client. It’s your job (and ours) to help clients succeed. When our clients are successful, so are we. Together, we can conquer the world—one app at a time. Editor’s Note:  If you’re interested in reading about our most recent work for a retailer, check out A.C. Moore Case Study and the Inventory Management App our team has created for this retailer’s team. Watch the full Case Study Video for A.C. Moore below. ac-moore-inventory-management-app-video

5 Mobile Experience Design Trends to Try Now

5 Mobile Experience Design Trends to Try Now

With new technology being rolled out regularly, we designers have a fantastic opportunity to use new tools and methods to improve the products we create for mobile experiences. This is our time to marry content, personalization, voice interactions, microinteractions, and video to produce unique experiences that will attract and impress users for years to come.

With 2018 well underway, I’d like to review five important experience trends that are bound to make a deep impact this year and will likely continue to define the way in which apps are developed in the years ahead.

 

1. Being Content-Centered

 

Our clients often look to us for the most effective means of distributing their content in a way that services the users and provides the client with reliable and quality data.

“Time is of the essence” has never been a truer statement. Users have super-short attention spans (Hubspot reports only about 8 seconds or so) that shrink more every year. Seconds matter – so while design can be pretty, more importantly, it needs to be purposeful. If we aren’t designing to make the content the most important aspect of each screen, then we are failing our clients and most importantly, users.

While designing around content that has yet to be provided is far from ideal, there are a few workarounds. You can always default to the popular Lorem Ipsum placeholder text, or you could try using the content that’s being replaced from your client’s current site, create your own, or borrow from a competitor’s site.

By using text and color as interactive design elements, you can strategically create quick, vibrant, and delightful user experiences that expedite the user’s journey with a content-centered experience. Keep it simple. You don’t want to overwhelm your users with too much information.

This insurance app does a great job of displaying multiple options in a visually simple way, both in a tab and main menu format.

 

content-centered-insurance-app

Image Credit: Nimasha Perara

2. Personalization

 

Personalization is one of the most frequently requested features in user interviews. Weather content, design, or navigation, users like to feel connected with the user interface. If there’s a pattern of disconnect, they will likely not want to return, especially given a user’s ever-shrinking attention span.

Personalization can be achieved in a number of ways, including:

  • Enabling cookies on websites to remember what users prefer on your site
  • Implementing location tools on mobile to remind users of their interests
  • Incorporating the seasons or holidays to create a user experience that feels current and relative, and allowing users to create profiles to customize their experience.

More often than not, people are more inclined to share negative experiences than positive ones, so it is imperative that we are creating a more intuitive experience for our users. If users feel a connection with a website or app, they will want to return and hopefully share their positive experiences.

The animation below highlights one of Shockoe’s latest customizable interfaces for a banking application. We helped create a mobile experience that allowed members to customize which cards they land on first, allowing users to get their most important information faster.

 

shockoe-banking-app-personalization

3. Voice Interaction

 

There is no denying the impact that Siri, Alexa, and Google have made on our usability. My seven-year-old daughter chats up Alexa regularly — asking for songs, to make animal noises, and even a few weeks back, asked if she was married! I find this to be a testament to what next-generation interaction looks like and the importance of adopting it sooner rather than later.

Over 30 million households now have voice interaction tools, which is incredible! The rise of voice interaction will undoubtedly drive the increase of designing without an interface. Good UX seeks the path of least resistance, and voice interaction certainly bypasses any friction that may have existed in a physical UI.

[bctt tweet=”Over 30 million households now have voice interaction tools,” username=”shockoe”]

When designing for voice interactions, experienced designers will need to to take into account many new considerations. Providing users with suggestions may help alleviate confusion when the system doesn’t understand the command or cannot produce the desired result. For example, you could have a retail app say: “You can ask to order shoes or browse shoes.” You should also consider providing the user with an easy way out by offering “leave” as an option.

Is the mic even on? Users will need to know when the AI they’re chatting with is paying attention and when there might be a problem.

 

voice-interaction

Image Credit: Juan C. Angustia

4. Microinteractions

 

Engaging with microinteractions is one of my favorite things when using an app. Microinteractions are simply subtle design effects based around completing a task. These tiny interactions bring a level of delight to a user experience. If implemented correctly, these in-app gestures and animations can reduce design clutter, increase intuitiveness, and make interaction almost seamless. Fewer buttons on a screen mean more focused content, and we all know that having the right content, is king.

Medium has a controversial “clapping” interaction, as an alternative way to “like” an article you’ve read. Love them or hate them, these tiny claps with fireworks are both silly and cute enough to have caused a plethora of blog posts both praising and cursing the change from “likes” to “claps”. Humans inherently hate change, so it’s not surprising that bloggers took to the Internet to vent about this change, just as they did with Instagram’s iconic logo change a few years back. Change is sometimes a necessary evil — it’s where great ideas stem from. I for one applaud medium for taking the bold step to attempt to improve usability.

With microinteractions, there is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the user and the app through fun and satisfying actions that leave users emotionally content – they help engage users to interact with tasks intuitively, like express appreciation with likes or favorites, navigate sites with subtle animated transitions, or filling out form fields with hint text.

Predictive microinteractions can provide directive animations to assist users with onboarding, making it more delightful and ultimately, less confusing

 

microinteractions

Image Credit: Leo Zakour

5. Fullscreen & Vertical Video

 

In 2017, the use of videos surged as a marketing medium. Hubspot reports that 81% of businesses utilized videos as a marketing tool and nearly 100% of those businesses say they’ll continue to do so in 2018. 65% of the businesses that didn’t use videos in 2017 say they are planning to in 2018.

Words are important, but with videos, users are able to experience a more interactive form of content while also consuming more information in a shorter amount of time. This is another form of putting content front and center in a way that doesn’t force users to scroll. With AR and VR becoming more common, a full-screen video will inevitably become the norm, providing users with a more immersive: personally-impactful experience that will give them more of an emotional connection. When users are immersed in another person’s experience, be it skiing the slopes, walking in an impassioned protest, exploring caves, or learning a new DIY project, they are bound to have a richer and deeper connection with the content.

As video content infiltrates our favorite sites and apps, users tend to keep their mobile devices in portrait mode, rather than turning them horizontally for a full-width view. According to LukeW, 94% of users view their content in portrait mode, while only 6% view content in landscape mode, thus the obvious need to provide users with the option to view all content, including video, in portrait mode.

Apple’s new Clip app offers users fullscreen AR selfies similar to Snapchat’s World Lenses. Mashable reports that Clip will offer an animated 360° scene that you can experience by moving the camera around.

 

fullscreen-vertical-app-video

Image Credit: Apple

 

facebook-live-video-app

Facebook Live Video. Image Credit Buzzfeed

Other Experience Trend Shoutouts

 

Since I couldn’t list every single popular experience trend to look for in 2018 and beyond, I wanted to at least show some love to a couple more experiences worth mentioning.

AR and VR

Quickly evolving into affordable and viable options for both enterprises and consumers. Whether you’re looking for augmented/virtual entertainment or augmented/virtual training, this medium has yet to surface its full potential. As AR and VR continue to find great ubiquity and user acceptance, think about how this technology could advance the medical, construction, aeronautics, and engineering fields in the years ahead.

Biometrics

It may seem new, and it sort of is, but since Apple released the iPhone X’s biometric face identification feature, it appears the bar has risen in security authentication. Fingerprint authorization is now common in comparison. Biometrics will continue to innovate and demand designers and developers to push the envelope when considering the user’s privacy and security concerns. Designers will need to keep in mind the willingness of their users to participate in the functionality and devs will need to remember that biometrics don’t protect against passcodes or tokens being shared. They’re simply new ways for users to gain access to their data without being too inconvenienced with passcode interruptions.

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

There are exciting new worlds being created, recreated and explored as we speak. There are digital worlds being developed from the inspirations of Earth and beyond. For those of us not able to travel to places like the polar ice caps, the Sistine Chapel, Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, Mars, or other places we may not be able to visit in our lifetime, this is our chance. Now, we have the opportunity to visit them from the comforts of our very own homes.

Our mobile enterprise company, Shockoe.com has recently branched out into the brave new world of Virtual Reality (VR). In this ambitious new venture, there are many things to consider. First, let’s break down the different branches of the digital realities.

VR provides the user with a digitally created 360 degree world using a type of headset, whether it’s utilizing Google cardboard, an Oculus or one of the many other options of headset viewers. Augmented Reality (AR) uses our mobile devices and overlays digital images over physical reality (ever heard of Pokemon Go)? Lastly, and my favorite, there’s Mixed Reality (MR).

MR might be such an advanced technology, that we likely won’t see this catch on until VR and AR are more of a regularity. MR is the ability to use virtual reality inside of our physical world. For instance, a doctor performing surgery on a patient could use a virtual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-ray scanner over their patient, providing them with an accurate view inside their patient’s body. Mind-blowing, right?

Now that you have an idea of the different realities being created, let me tell you that there is nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to design the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) for these exciting realities. When starting the conversation of UX for VR, it’s easy to get a little carried away. The possibilities seem endless (because they are), which is why it’s important to focus on what’s best for the user, what makes the most sense for the user to do in order to see and navigate our experiences. What does the client want to provide their users?

These questions are seemingly simple, yet necessary. A UX/UI designer needs to know what type of VR they are designing for. Is it for a headset alone, headset with camera sensors, or headset with gloves? What are the limitations of this experience? How far can the UX/UI designer push these limitations while still maintaining a fulfilling, yet positive user experience? What can I designer do to keep users returning to their fascinating VR experiences and even share them with others?

shockoe_vr_coneoffocusUsers with solo headsets can only use their Field of View (FOV) or Cone of Focus to make their selection, not their hands. While this might seem limiting, it’s not. Keep in mind that this is VR, where the user can turn in any direction they choose and explore a new world by just putting on a headset. Making a selection through vision is quite simple. A UX designer could use a countdown, various loading animations, or status bars. They can even invent something totally new and intuitive that hasn’t been thought of yet.

Making a selection is one thing, navigating these new worlds is another. There are a lot of different things to consider when navigating in VR. For one thing, it’s somewhat similar to navigating our physical world in terms of our FOV. We all have our own, some of us more or less than others, and the Cone of Focus is how designers segment the FOV.

The UX designer should focus the user’s primary actions within the initial area of vision. When we look directly forward, by just moving our eyes we can see approximately 90 degrees within our central vision. Everything outside of that is our far peripheral vision and should be designed accordingly by placing only secondary and tertiary user actions within these areas of vision, such as motion cues or exit options.

These are extremely important limitations to know when designing the UX for VR experiences. These degrees of vision define how the UX should be envisioned and implemented. Without making the user work too hard to explore their new digital surroundings, the UX designer must take into account the Cone of Focus for all primary actions without taking away from the extraordinary experience of VR. Thus, making one consider the visual placement of UX design by measurements of FOV degrees throughout the app.

While all of this information may seem overwhelming, it is also very, very exciting. Designing UX and UI in 360 degrees is a phenomenal opportunity to learn, adapt and innovate in this amazing new digital age. At Shockoe.com, we are on the edge of our seats with excitement about being able to provide our clients with the intuitive experiences their users want through innovative technology that VR offers.

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From Hardhats to Enterprise Apps

From Hardhats to Enterprise Apps

If you would have asked me this time last year if I was going to be working for a growing application design and development firm serving fortune 500 companies – I would have said, ‘In my dreams!’

Now, I can proudly say that is a reality, and I’m still pinching myself.

A year ago today, I was inspecting residential properties, skyscrapers, factories, construction sites and pipe trenches for asbestos, lead, and mold. Believe it or not, there was a lot of downtime for this type of work in between the hustle and bustle. I’m sure you’ve seen 10 construction workers on the side of the road while two guys are doing all the hard labor. That’s called safety folks!

I was not one to sit idle in my downtime on the job site. I’m the type of person that likes to stay busy, learn and contribute to the world. Through family and friends, I learned about the ever-growing world of UX and UI design. It wasn’t long before I realized that my passion for design worked equally well in the digital world as it did in the real one – and with a couple of art degrees from my past college years, I was determined to find my next venture.

I began studying this new digital world through websites like Udemy and YouTube, which offer great lectures and tutorials. I was also turned onto Mediumspecifically the UX collection, which is full of insightful blog posts that provide a glimpse into the tech world, and some of the pros and cons of the mobile app development industry.

I spent almost a year learning from lectures, tutorials, blog posts, testing mobile apps, studying design and visiting tech fairs. By putting myself out there – I found Shockoe. I was able to get my foot in the door to prove to a fast-growing company that I had something to offer, something to contribute to be successful. 

What I’ve found most valuable working with an up and coming tech company is that they’re looking to give you a shot at succeeding. If you have the right attitude and perseverance to prove that you can contribute to the larger picture, are willing to learn and adapt and believe in high quality apps that are well thought out and intuitive, then you can find great opportunities. This is the core belief in creating enterprise apps at Shockoe. I can tell you one thing, sitting idle and watching time go by will likely keep you out of the tech world and farther from your fuller future. Instead, pull out your phone and enjoy critiquing what you love most about your favorite Android and iOS apps. 

Since I’ve been working at Shockoe, I’ve learned a lot about working as a team and how important transparency is among our peers so our ideas and our skills can be utilized appropriately or improved upon. We are creating positive user experiences by listening to our clients, thorough testing and well thought out designs with the user and their tasks in mind. If you’re ready to be apart of a team of hard workers looking to improve the world, look no further. Shockoe needs great minds like you to bring your vision to the world of mobile enterprise app development.

Start watching videos on YouTube and reading to learn what makes a great UI or exceptional UX (or even what those acronyms mean). Ask yourself, what works well and what might you do to improve them? You could be the one to join our team and create the next best idea.