The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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Give Me A “Sexy” UI Any Day

systematicHR Avatar

Jason and I might have to disagree on this one.

Can we please stop saying “…and the user interface is sexy”!  User interfaces should not be “sexy” nor are they!  User interfaces should be clean and simple, presenting only the information necessary for the task at hand.  The user interface should be designed with the end user as the sole focus, not how the applications and workflow should look and be laid out nicely on the screen.

Don’t get me wrong…UI is important and I have been talking a lot about usability for the past 3 years.  I really think though, many of the HCM application vendors are missing the boat, investing in fancy-pants AJAX-Flex technology and attempting to drive users into their application instead of going to where the users hang out…primarily Microsoft Office, Google, and their defined home page of choice (mine happens to be iGoogle).  That means utilizing third-party plugins, building widgets, enabling RSS, etc.  ((Corsello, Jason, October 24, 2007.  “User Interfaces Shouldn’t Be Sexy.”))

From the vendor standpoint, often a sexy UI is just a sales tool and hides deficiencies under the covers.  However, there are good reasons to want a sexy UI, assuming that all is well behind the scenes in terms of functionality and technology.  First, a very sexy UI will create a desire in end users to try and use the product.  If the UI is engineered well to actually make the lives of the end user easier, then not only will initial adoption be higher, but long term adoption will also be better.  All technology is about adoption.

When it comes to talent management, HR has a history of problematic technologies.  Managers don’t want to go into the talent app, they want their simple spreadsheets and word documents.  We’d rather them in the applications where the processes and analytics are.

Jason is right, we want integration, RSS, widgets and plugins.  But I also want users in the HR apps.  Sexy might be the best way of doing that.

(apologies to Jason for the very late rebuttal)

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7 responses to “Give Me A “Sexy” UI Any Day”

  1. Taragana Corsello, Jason, October 24, 2007.  “User Interfaces Shouldn’t Be Sexy.” [back] Thank you for reading the Tribute Media Human Resources News Feed. Please check the original post here:systematicHR – Human Resources Strategy and Technology. The purpose of this feed it to provide information to the greatest audience possible. In addition, we can drive inbound links to your blog. If you would like to have your blog featured or removed from here or in any of our other newsfeeds, please

  2. to rethink their practice and integrate better design in their applications. There has been a lot of discussions in my space (HCM: Human Capital Management aka the less sexy Human Resource) recently on that topic. Here are a few of them: here,here, here, here, here, and here. The argument I agree the most with comes, as often, from SystematicHR (emphasis mine). there are good reasons to want a sexy UI, assuming that all is well behind the scenes in terms of functionality and technology.

  3. Ben Yoskovitz Avatar

    “Sexy” isn’t the right word, although it gets tossed around a lot. I don’t mind it – being in the software development world – but I can understand why people don’t like it. Generally they think it means, “lots of bells and whistles” when in fact it should mean quite the opposite.

    A greate UI has to be usable. It encourages adoption, as you point out, and as such it can prove to be a differentiator. UIs can be copied of course (like almost anything else), but once you’ve set the tone / style for how your software’s UI will look, you are making a big statement in terms of usability, functionality and approach.

    So I’m all for “sexy UIs” if they bring the right things to the table.

  4. Jacob Avatar

    I used to work for a top-tier investment bank, and when we had completed our pilot project of “eHR” (a web-based workflow system to replace tons of paper), the executive sponsor decided that he really needed the ACCEPT and REJECT buttons at the top of the form (e.g. an approval form for a new hire or an international transfer) – as he didn’t wan’t to waste time reading through the details …doh.

    Now – is this a user-interface design error, is it a poor elicitation of requirements on my part, or is it simply that we haven’t yet understood that user-interfaces NEEDS to be designed with the end-users in mind.

    I truely believe in the latter – it is more important to understand your users, than it is to prove that you master all the new web-design techniques. Imagine how different a UI you would create for a display to a jack-hammer, as compared to a reporting interface to Business Objects that was dragging data from multiple datawarehouses across the organisation.

    You are totally spot on when you say that managers (and employees for that matter), are reluctant to complete the yearly- and sometimes bi-yearly evaluation/development processes with all the fancy Performance Management software we have installed in the last few years.

    Who is to blame for this? My speciality is in the area of requirements definition, so i’m very convinced that I, and my collegues are to blame – did we only listen to HR or did we go out to the Line to hear what they really needed. Many times you don’t have that possibility, but IMHO it should be done nevertheless – manage your risks AT ALL TIMES.

    I have seen so many poor examples of using sexy interfaces and a lot of expensive databases to make a “push” PMS solution – and they have all failed. As the previous poster mentioned, then it’s all about Excel and Word unless you have a truely integrated PMS, that delivers what your end-users are asking for (btw. your end-user is NOT HR).

    Best regards,

  5. systematicHR Avatar

    Thanks everyone. And just a quick note – at the end of the day, sexy is good, but no matter how un-sexy your UI is, change management is what is critical at the end of the day.

  6. Jacob Avatar

    “Thanks everyone. And just a quick note – at the end of the day, sexy is good, but no matter how un-sexy your UI is, change management is what is critical at the end of the day.”

    My apologies for being a nit-picker, but shoulden’t that have been “….no matter how sexy your UI is…”

    Any way, I can only agree with SystematicHR – and when I mentioned Risk Management in my previous post, I really meant Change Management. When I start talking about Risk Management to HR Partners, their eyes start wandering around the room very quickly 🙂

    Cast your vote on current HR systems here:

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