UI Design Trends 2021: What’s Working in Enterprise App Designs

Renuka Savant | 6 min read

There exist over thousands of specialty software fuelling B2B operations, including financial trackers, CRMS, HRMS, ERPs, and more. These software typically tend to be feature-rich and complex, which sometimes can result in difficulty of use. Of course, with companies realizing the potential and impact of user-centric systems, the onus lies on the designers to rise up to the challenge of refining and improving enterprise app designs

Good UX is defined as being seamless and intuitive, and provides delight to the user.

The interface design of a user-friendly application manages to anticipate the user’s needs accurately and serve the purpose accordingly. While these qualities were the mainstay of consumer apps, quick progress is being made by designers and developers working in the enterprise domain as well. Let’s take a look at the latest UI design trends that are refining enterprise design in 2021.

1. Efficient Voice Interfaces

Here’s a telling statistic – 41% of adults in the United States have been making use of voice commands every day and this number was expected to touch 50% by 2020.

But this goes for devices we use in our daily lives, like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.

How would a sales manager go about procuring sales figures from his enterprise app without actually using a keyboard or being logged in?
How would a patient with a disability use his hospital’s service app to book an appointment?

Voice interfaces are steadily making inroads into the legacy-laden world of enterprise design. UI and UX have made rapid transitions from keyboards, touch surfaces, haptic devices, and voice inputs, and have simplified the human-computer interaction as a result. Voice-based user interfaces (VUI) have enabled users to complete their tasks in a hands-free manner, promoting the feature of easy utility.  VUIs can be designed to be effective digital assistants for enterprise users, allowing quick decision making that’s based on verified data while recording the entire process trail.

All said and done, creating a VUI that is intuitive and offers natural interactions is far from simple. Remember, ill-functioning VUIs can be a source of extreme frustration for users – IVR phone systems are a stark reminder of this. Innovations in voice technology have reached a point where understanding accent and pronunciation variations is a given. The real challenge is defining intent and context – what task is it that the user wants the system to perform and why, and in what context.

Accessibility to key metrics will strengthen VUIs and allow better performance, speed up intelligence gathering, predict outcomes on the basis of user history, and make suggestions to keep business moving efficiently and effectively.

SAP Leonardo, for instance, uses conversational AI to build and enhance chatbots and digital assistants which can be used by employees to improve business processes, solve problems, reduce complexity and increase productivity in their organization. Microsoft Speech also works similarly in MS Office to process simple voice commands, empowering users to get their jobs done faster, and focus on higher-value work.

IPhone - UI Example

2. 3D interactions

Visualizations help users translate data into a vivid story and enable better understanding, analysis, and decision-making. Industrial businesses that require high-res photorealistic imagery can optimize productivity with better visual displays using 3D technology. For instance, SAP’s Visual Enterprise suite helps in creating 3D animations rendering rich visual content into common desktop documents, file formats, and business applications for secure downstream use. It can also translate 3D CAD files into lighter versions to support engineering and manufacturing processes.

3D interactions - UI

3. Designing for larger mobile screens

Enterprise apps have already made their way into mobile devices, and since we’re in 2021, their UIs are increasingly optimized for mobile usage. Bottom-placed menus are the most common feature brought upon by the popularity of large-screen mobile devices.

Floating CTA buttons is another feature that is useful for larger screens, especially for enterprise users. They can be designed to stand out visually and help the user to perform the most common action on that screen. Floating buttons come in handy to deftly control user flows and streamline the interface.

Floating Folders - GIF

4. Creative micro-interactions

No discussion on creative enterprise UI interactions can be complete without the mention of Slack. This phenomenally popular B2B product has managed to attain holy grail status thanks to its unbeatable combination of easy utility and feisty personality. Their micro-interactions combine utility with intelligence and humor which manage to infuse an element of fun in our mundane work lives. The success of Slack may be largely attributed to the global rise in the number of remote workers, but the intelligent design has played a significant role as well.

Slack UI microinteractions example

5. Designing for sans-keyboard functionality

We’re already at a place in time where speech recognition, natural language processing, and facial recognition are a part of our everyday technology, perhaps even enterprise technology. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that the next big step would involve communicating with machines sans-keyboards which mimics the nuanced techniques we use to communicate with other humans. Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) are understood to be the next big thing in UIs, basically establishing that ‘no UI is the best UI’.

However, speaking strictly from the enterprise context, the heart of the debate surrounding these futuristic UIs is figuring out to what extent does the virtual world matter to users of enterprise systems. In case of a conference call, for example, augmented reality is far preferable to virtual reality, says Blair MacIntyre, a professor at the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “You totally wouldn’t want just VR version of that because maybe I need to look at my notes, or type something on my computer, or just pick up my coffee cup without knocking it over.”

A valid example of keyboard-less functionality is that of Google’s Pixel 3. It makes use of visual recognition to empower the device’s camera to act as a product search tool, identifying and locating retail products.

Futuristic UIs that pass the Turing Test can play a huge role in boosting employee performances. To work with technology that seamlessly understands contextual communication can transform the way we work.

In the years to come, personalization is going to be a keyword for enterprise UX. And, intelligent interface enhancements will play a big role in improving the usability of enterprise technology.

More Resources:

5 Examples of UI Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

5 Healthcare UI Designs That Demonstrate Ease of Use

4 Enterprise Apps that Ace User-centric Features

About Author:

Sr. Content Writer at Koru UX Design, Renuka loves to write, discuss, research, and read up on the latest in user experience design. When she’s not doing that, she spends her days watching crime thrillers and sports.

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