UX/UI: The Single Most Important Feature in FSM Software
UX/UI: The Single Most Important Feature in FSM Software
What’s the difference between field service management (FSM) software and other applications? Simple: the field.
Most software products are used by someone sitting in an office at a computer. Maybe someone pulls up the app on their phone or uses it in a coffee shop, but the experience rarely gets particularly extreme or exotic.
That’s certainly not the case in field service.
When technicians are working in the field, they depend on FSM software for everything from directions to instructions. And they are often using the software in conditions that are dark, dirty, or dangerous—places that make it harder to use technology safely or seamlessly. The field throws endless obstacles between technicians and the software they need. And if just a few things go wrong, technicians are left without vital information and assistance, resulting in jobs that take longer, profit less, or pose more hazards.
We bring this up to highlight the importance of UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) in FSM software. Every developer considers these concepts when building a piece of software. In FSM software, however, UX and UI are extremely important – they can make or break the software, and they’re arguably more important than any single feature or capability. This blog explains why FSM software isn’t successful without a great interface and experience. Then, we run down what greatness looks like.
UX and UI Explained
All software has two components that determine how users engage with it.
The first component, UX, is about identifying and solving user problems. Similar to the ambiance in a restaurant, the UX shapes the entire experience and affects what we expect from the software and how we use it. Good developers understand those preconceptions and create a wireframe that aligns with them so people feel comfortable and familiar with using the software from the first time forward.
The second component, UI, is about creating intuitive, aesthetically-pleasing, interactive interfaces. When the UI works well, interactions with the software are instinctual.
As renowned designer Helga Moreno, likes to say:
“Something that looks great but is difficult to use is exemplary of great UI and poor UX. While something very usable that looks terrible is exemplary of great UX and poor UI.”
UX design usually comes first in the product development process, followed by UI. The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements. UX can apply to any kind of product, service, or experience; UI is specific to digital products and experiences.
The user interface is technically a subset of the user experience, but software can have an excellent interface and still deliver a bad experience or vice versa. Great software needs to excel on both fronts. More importantly, however, it synthesizes the interface and experience around the target user so that the software always feels like an asset and enabler and never like an obstacle.
User Experience in Action
Consider some examples to help illustrate how the concepts of UX and UI in FSM software translate to the work a technician does in the field.
- A technician who relies on glasses is working in a dim basement. She cannot see perfectly, but her FSM app has large buttons, clear color contrasts, and other strong visual cues that make poor visibility a non-issue. She can complete her work while still taking full advantage of the software instead of having to stop and go somewhere else with better light.
- A technician must collect multiple client signatures and specific pieces of information for compliance purposes. His app tells him what to get and when and puts warnings or stops in place if something gets missed. The app makes the “correct” way the only way to complete the job instead of putting the responsibility and liability on the technician to get every detail right.
- A technician has on a hazmat suit that limits his mobility, including thick gloves. His FSM app minimizes the number of taps he needs to make and spaces out the buttons and inputs to prevent pressing the wrong thing. Absent these thoughtful touches; the app would quickly become annoying and force the technician to pause his work while removing the gloves.
As all these examples show, the UX and UI of FSM software can work to a technician’s advantage—helping him overcome common obstacles, adapt to the unexpected, preserve safety and compliance, bolster customer engagement, and boost productivity. But it would be easy to cast the examples in the negative, describing all the ways that bad UX and UI could make these situations worse. Imagine a technician squinting in the dark to read tiny text and missing an essential instructional detail. Or a technician gets lost and arrives late because directions are hard to find and understand.
This reiterates our earlier point about the vital importance of UX/UI in FSM software. It doesn’t matter how extensive the toolkit is or how flashy the bells and whistles may be. If the UX and UI are not stellar, technicians will misuse the software incompletely or incredulously. At best, this is a waste of software investment. At worst, it wastes the FSM software’s potential to increase revenues, reduce costs, streamline operations, retain employees, and engage customers.
NextService – Raising the Bar for UX/UI
Considering that NextService was initially created by an actual field service provider (an Australian industrial equipment wholesaler), it is no surprise that our FSM software has a keen understanding of what techs want and how they work. NextService offers a broad, deep, and diverse toolkit (that runs on-platform with NetSuite) to digitize, integrate, or automate all aspects of service delivery. However, NextService is also exceptional in terms of UX and UI.
NextService has UX/UI experts on the product team to build best practices into every aspect of the software. Through a careful design, iteration, and improvement process, our product feels familiar and functional to users. We have worked hard to build a friction-free user experience combined with a robust and practical user interface that can withstand harsh field conditions.
That work never stops, either. We are constantly learning from user feedback and identifying where pain points or possible improvements exist, then updating the software accordingly. We extensively test different designs to determine which works best, then continuously improve so that the experience and interface always reflect what technicians want from FSM software.
Consider how this process recently played out as we redesigned a small but essential part of the software: the technicians’ list of tasks in the mobile app. Previously, there was a small button to add new tasks at the top. The latest software version moves the button into a drop-down menu with several other commands—a change we walk through in this video. It seems like a minor tweak, but it helps the app look cleaner, removes visual clutter, and reduces the likelihood of adding tasks by accident. Our testing showed that technicians preferred the streamlined look of NextService and found it easier to add tasks than before. This is just one of many changes coming to the NextService interface. The point, however, is that real users inform and endorse every change we make, providing us with the roadmap to create an exceptional UX and UI.
NextService was built to conform to the workflows, service requirements, and business strategies unique to each provider who uses it. Our commitment to continuously improving the UX/UI extends to customizing it on behalf of customers. Managers have broad latitude and easy tools to choose what techs see and do in the app, plus the backing of our team to make additional changes and customization as necessary. We strive to deliver a standard-setting UX/UI that evolves with users consistently, anticipating what they need and adapting to the changing face of field service so that NextService becomes more impactful (and delivers a better ROI) over time.
Ready to try our industry-leading field service management software? Schedule a demo of NextService to experience how a great UX/UI can impact usability and productivity.