When it comes to the state of the IT administrator user experience, we’ve passed a tipping point. The idea that a rewarding and optimized digital experience should only be reserved for the front-end customer has gone out of fashion, and the emphasis on digital transformation and explosion of the digital workplace has propelled the employee to the center of the UX conversation. This makes complete sense when you remember that a big part of what drives the outcome of digital transformation is successfully engaging employees. Nailing the back-end is just as important as nailing the front-end, and in many cases, the latter is even dependent on the former.
Internal processes and tools are now drawing bigger attention and higher prioritization from organizations as they face demand from employees for more consumer-like digital experiences and cleaner, simpler workflows — no matter how technical, advanced, or complex the task. When it comes to designing a smarter UX for IT admins, it’s not enough to simply layer on features reserved for consumer-facing properties. Rather, you should strive to borrow key aspects of consumer-focused UX, and bridge their advantages to better serve the IT admin. Here are three important things to consider.
Create different user roles
The variety and breadth of tasks performed by IT staff often requires flexible tools and dashboards, but flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse in the case of IT administration and management. For one thing, you can create a cluttered experience for users by giving them options or access to tools and features that aren’t even relevant to their work. For another, granting unlimited access to users with relatively less technical expertise is a dangerous game that opens you up to potentially costly human errors and risks.
Consider the different types of roles that need to use the software, and craft distinct roles with permissions that give users access to only what they need and nothing more. This isn’t just about privileges, but tailoring the interface just enough to suit each role — although I would caution to find a balance here. In some cases, you might benefit from creating a higher customized experience, but in others, you’re better off sticking with a consistent and more cohesive design across users.
Streamline with point-and-click
One of the most tedious aspects of IT administration is that there’s no end of complex, multi-step tasks. From logging into terminal servers to writing PowerShell scripts, traditional IT admin UX can leave a lot to be desired. Just because a user is technically proficient enough to do something manually doesn’t mean they should have to do it that way! That’s like saying you should wash and dry all of your dishes, one by one and by hand, instead of loading up your dishwasher and pressing the start button.
So why perpetuate the path of completely manual if you can avoid it, and also avoid the hit to productivity and employee satisfaction? Think about the tasks that you can transform into a point-and-click fashion, starting with the ones that are highest in complexity but lowest in value – the ones that take the most time and energy to complete, but add the least value to the business. And remember – the fewer the clicks, the better.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Sure, there’s a lot of pressure to create an “innovative” UX, but that doesn’t mean you have to go back to square one! Consider some of the most successful elements that consumer-facing tools use, and implement the specifically if they streamline, simplify, or add greater satisfaction to the experience.
Examples include global navigation that organizes tasks into major buckets and uses nested or dropdown options, icons that can make it easier to quickly identify key tasks, or visually inspired presentation of critical data and key information. If internal communication between users and teams is necessary, consider mirroring aspects of mainstream consumer social media to make it a positive experience.
When it comes to designing for IT administration and management, remember that you’re not exempt from the pitfalls of poor UX for consumers. In the case of the back-end, an inadequate or unsatisfactory UX will wind up impacting the entire business. It’s crucial that organizations treat their IT staff as a kind of customer, and allocate the right resources and planning to enhance their experience.