There’s often a mindset that enterprise mobile applications should function — from a user experience viewpoint — differently than consumer applications. After all, enterprise apps serve a different purpose than consumer apps like Instagram or Facebook.

And, in some cases, back end functions do need to be customized. For example, security and integration requirements for enterprise mobile apps often add complexities that impact the overall development process.

But, from a design perspective, there’s less need to draw a hard line between consumer and enterprise applications. This is because, as humans, we use the same part of our brain whether we’re having a consumer experience or an enterprise experience.

We are conditioned to expect technology to help us achieve our goals with minimal friction. Yet, we know from experience that apps such as time entry, job tracking or softphone applications often feel like user experience was an afterthought. So, how do developers and organizations build enterprise apps that are both useful and a pleasure to engage with?

One way to create more engaging enterprise apps is to start with design thinking.Click To Tweet

Design thinking helps developers uncover the true problem that they are looking to solve for end users, and, gives direction to design and development — with a goal of creating the best user experience.

In some cases, using design thinking can actually redirect teams when the process uncovers that the true problem is different from the perceived problem. Once a true problem has been identified, embracing iterative user testing and prototyping during the design phase can save time and ensure that “solving the true problem” remains the goal.

And for design, developers should leverage a consistent design system to accelerate new feature development and enable a predictable and successful user experience.

So, what does this look like in practice? I’m sure you’ve noticed that the consumer apps you use the most also have the most frequent software updates, right? This is by design. And it’s is easily the most important aspect to transfer to enterprise apps.

But with enterprise apps, we often build it, roll it out and leave it be. But this is wrong. Ongoing iterative improvement is how consumer app developers retain users and engagement, so we need to build this into enterprise app development as well. We need to change our mindset.

Aside from optimizations at the technical level, bugs and desired new features are most often reported by the most active users. This continual feedback mechanism within the app is critical. Organizations should also, on a regular basis, actively survey their app users. They should perform remote or in-person user testing and hold customer discovery sessions to understand how the app is performing over time, beyond the quantitative data that analytics give us. It’s often through these “live” user dialogs that organizations understand how apps are used in the real world, on the litany of devices used.

When we think about technology development best practices for enterprise apps, there are several technologies at our disposal. Some, like React Native, allow organizations to develop in a single tech stack and deploy to both Android and iOS applications.

This approach can reduce actual development cost but may not be the best fit for every application. With enterprise applications, for instance, the planned tech integrations, security demands, user base size, expected functionality and devices being deploying are more likely to dictate the tech stack, not the other way around.

Either direction you go, the most important action is to follow best practices. This spans all aspects such as code quality, development process (Agile is preferred), repository management, load testing and deployment process. A great user experience (regardless of consumer or enterprise) can be quickly diminished if the app takes too long to load or doesn’t function properly.

Finally, stay ahead of new framework releases and operating system updates from Apple and Google. Most users upgrade their apps within days of a new release — so you can’t wait until the release is public to start upgrading your enterprise app. This will delay your updates, impact the functionality of your app and you’ll be risking the user experience, retention and app store ratings.