Art can imitate life but in UX art can also make life better!

Since I was a child, I’ve always liked visual arts, sketching and painting the people around me, but not cloning them onto the canvas. I like to create my own version of people and their environment in ways that please the eye and also bring new meaning. Now, all those years of exploring imagery, colour, and shape, and observing my surroundings, are coming into play. As I lead Cloudia’s UX development team, the importance of really knowing our digital procurement customers and understanding the wider ecosystem where they operate has been intrinsic in our ambition to deliver a singularly unique and optimal user experience.

But what does art have to do with user experience?

First of all, in the same way that a room with an attractive design, layout, lighting and colour, becomes a place where we want to spend time, giving our customers a visually appealing site is the first step to making our solutions approachable, even enjoyable, for them. I also believe that a strong visual design can enhance and strengthen the user experience, even instil user confidence in our underlying functionality. In that sense you could say that art becomes the bridge to functionality. Because the true force of the visuals comes when they are backed with a strong underlying meaning or purpose.

The Cloudia UX team has just finished a comprehensive user interface upgrade, harmonising the colours and layouts that make up the visual experience of our products as well as drilling down deeper into the user logic, unifying and adapting things like how you conduct a search or navigate through the system. And this is across all Cloudia services. The goal being that if a customer has taken one service into use, such as Cloudia Sourcing, and they later add Cloudia Contract, it will be easier to jump in and feel immediately at ease and at home in our visually optimised landscape. I’m pleased to say that initial customer feedback, via our latest survey has been positive.

Every customer has a unique way of working

Developing our user experience, is something ongoing for us and we’ve involved our customers since our start-up back in 2008. As one of Cloudia’s founders, I’ve been uniquely positioned to really get to know our customers at the frontlines.

One thing I saw over and over was that every customer has a unique way of working, even those with a similar sector, size and market share. In those early days, some customers were very aware from the outset of the benefits of digitalizing their operations, while others needed more convincing on why the move would make good business sense.

Now at least in Finland and the other Nordic countries, that ‘why’ question has become a foregone conclusion and at Cloudia we’re well-positioned to focus more of our energy and expertise on the ‘what’ and ‘how’? And that really comes down to knowing our customers and their stakeholders.

Keeping our customers one step ahead

In my art, I’ve always been driven by a curiosity for what’s possible. In much the same way, I like getting into the flow of a particular customer problem that needs solving. I want to dig deep into their world and try to find real and measurable ways to make it better. That means knowing their pain points as well as their goals. What are they trying to achieve and what is holding them back? In digital procurement that usually means not just working with the customer but the whole colourful canvas around them.

Our customers don’t work in silos, they exist in a broad ecosystem of their suppliers, their own customers, competitors and industry partners. And in digital procurement this ecosystem is constantly in flux, with changing needs, price points, demand, and new legislation, among others. So, instead of just digitalizing old routines, it makes better sense for our customers to optimize their own operating models to take full advantage of digitalization, using solutions that are scalable to their needs. That’s why in keeping our customers one step ahead, continuous development has become business as usual for us, in our products and services and our user experience.

Dynamic guidance and a sense of place

The next step to adding more lasting user value in UX comes from what is known as dynamic guidance. If a user in our system is creating, for example, a new digital sourcing request, this can be a complex process, not just a journey from A to B. So, carefully orchestrated guidance will appear in pop up boxes and videos designed to facilitate the process and give the user a sense of place; as in ‘Where am I now?’ and ‘Where should I go next?’

We want our customers to know from their very first encounter with our products that they’ll have a smooth and stress-free user experience and that it will be repeated across our product line up. And as they move through our systems, strengthening their long-term productivity and business viability, the artist in me also hopes they will enjoy the view!

Art can imitate life but in UX art can also make life better!

 

 

 

 

Petri Martikainen
Senior Specialist, Partner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the role of user experience in Cloudia’s service development and read about the new interface based on the best possible user experience.

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