For a long time, a good User experience hasn’t been a priority in business applications. It was common to have a boring standard. UI that needed two days of training before you knew where to click. Who cares that you need five clicks to execute a function? Who cares that you need to click buttons in a specific order? As long as you created the application with more functions than others, you had a pretty big chance of winning the client.
The biggest evolution in the importance of User Experience was the introduction of apps for mobile devices. App-users are brutal when it comes to user experience. People will not use your app when the User Experience is bad. They will just pick another app that does the same thing but better: competition is strong. It took a while but nowadays also business applications will be judged on their user experience. We’ve noticed that we started winning (or losing) clients based on the user experience of our applications. This is a good thing. Computers were invented to save time and costs, because things could be done faster. Improving the user experience of an application does that, it helps businesses optimize their work.
However, we must be careful that we don’t go the complete opposite way. I see companies choosing software completely based on the look and feel and getting rid of that software a few months later because it was lacking functionality or because it had too many bugs. Requirement lists are being ignored in favour of the look and feel of software.
As a consultancy firm we have taken some big steps to improve the User Experience of the things we create. We always create mock-ups in the requirements phase so the client knows what to expect. We work agile, so the user can have a go with the application and have processes optimized and most importantly we test our User Experience by letting someone without any knowledge of the application use it.
So: start making User Experience part of your requirements and look past all the bells and whistles of an application. What do you really want it to do? see what it can really do. Maybe even try making your own mock-ups. It will help us create applications that answers all your needs, making sure that you not only got the looks, but also the brains.