Our approach to user experience and product design

Crelate was founded by seasoned product designers, graphic artists, developers and enterprise quality consultants.  I myself am actually a visual arts major, turned software developer, and entrepreneur.  Through my years of experience in the field I have learned a very important rule of solution design: If software doesn’t get used, it’s not worth very much.  I personally have been a part of many “system replacement” projects where we were called in to replace whatever rarely used and antiquated CRM or custom-built process automation system a company had.  After seeing this time and time again, you are able to do your own root cause analysis of the problem and you begin to realize that most of the time, the problem isn’t the engineering or the software, it’s that the developers did one of the worst things they could do: exactly what they were told.  They built-in every business rule, workflow step, bell, whistle, required field and added every custom field that every manager, executive or end-user with an opinion wanted.  The results were an often unusable mess.  It’s not easy to keep the balance between form and function; especially as the amount of functions grow.  We certainly aren’t perfect here, but we are on a journey to continually strike that balance.  To help guide us, we developed the following rules of design that we apply to every feature we build.

Crelate’s Rules of UX Design

1 – Don’t create work for users

Instead, reduce steps whenever possible, let the user contextually decide if automation make sense and if automation is used, do whatever you can to let the user skip it if it turns out to not be helpful. I have seen time and time again, systems that actually create more work than they save.  Often it starts out subtle, a reminder, or an auto-generated task – what starts out as a drizzle, can quickly turn into a deluge.  Automation can quickly become automatic work generation, assignments for users to complete (whether it’s actually important or not to a particular situation), mountains of parsed stuff that invariably requires cleanup”¦ you might know the feeling if you have ever thought “stop helping me” from your CRM or ATS.

2 – Don’t fight complexity with complexity

Instead, fight complexity with simplicity. This one is critical and it’s fundamental to how we tackle problems.  And frankly, it’s a lot easier said than done, but we feel we do a great job of this in our approach to workflow, resume parsing, search, tagging and much more.  This is, of course, not to say that the solution internally is simple, we might write a mountain of code to make something appear simply to a user – but that’s the point.  It’s simple to the user, but still yields the intended benefit.

3 – Don’t require fields

Instead embrace a non-linear workflow and allow the user to make mistakes or change their minds. Also, don’t obligate users to fill in certain fields, but let them fill in what they know when they know it and fix it later”¦the software should just deal with it and get out of the way. We put in a lot of thought and have written a ridiculous amount of code for this very purpose.

4 – Don’t confuse visual design with experience design

Instead, use them together and in the right amounts to create something beautiful and elegant. Getting these topics confused is quiet common, but the result can be liked to putting lipstick on a pig.  A beautiful user interface, with nice icons and gorgeous colors won’t make it usable if it doesn’t follow our previous three rules.  You might know what this feels like if you have ever said described a product as “It looks nice but…”

Is Crelate perfectly achieving these goals?  Absolutely not, but that’s not the point.  What is important is that we are self-aware of the challenge before us.  We humbly take pride in the journey.  And it appears to be working, customers tell us over and over how our user experience is way better than most products out there.  They also tell us where we might improve; and we listen, we reflect, and we respond with continual and measured progress every release.

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