I can tell in a manner of minutes looking at someone’s Salesforce org and talking to Users if a prior implementation partner or Administrator spent any time optimizing Salesforce to be easy to use.
Here are some symptoms of a Salesforce org that has not been optimized for usability:
- Users complain of not being able to find records, yet duplicate records are an issue
- Users don’t know what half the fields on a page are used for and some quick reporting confirms many fields are never used
- Users are spending a lot of time in Excel trying to clean up and sort records
- There are quite a few required fields on a page layout, resulting in a lot of bogus data (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org and 555-555-1212 entries are frequent)
- To create a new record Users are scrolling up and down the page multiple times
- There are no custom Views available under Tabs
- Search Layouts have not been configured
- There are a lot of “orphaned” records (e.g. Contacts that are not associated to an Account)
- Lots of calls to Administrators for reports that are nothing more than lists of records (e.g. “I need all the Leads in Texas”, or “Can I get a list of all our Tier 1 Accounts with an Open Case?”)
- A User has to scroll left and right on the page because of the high number of tabs across the top of the application
- Suggested lists (e.g. the Subject field) have not been configured
- Filters have not been configured on lookups
- There are no Custom Links
- Image fields are not being used to provide visual clues about a record (aging, status, issues, etc)
- All multi-select picklists have the default “3 lines visible” and are crammed into a two column page layout which forces a users to scroll a window left and right to enter information
- “Tabbing” through fields on a record is not consistent (Tab-key order)
I know you’re asking yourself “hasn’t Salesforce.com spent a lot of time, effort and money making their software easy to use out of the box?” Absolutely – and we should take note of things they have done to make the User experience consistent and logical. However everyone uses the tool differently and we need to tailor and optimize the experience to fit how each company runs their business.
What is Usability?
In the world of websites, good usability equates to high task completion. On website a “task” could be buying something online or finding the information you were looking for with the least amount of hassle (clicks) or thought (intuitiveness). I think this “task completion” concept applies to Salesforce.com as well. Your job as a consultant or administrator is to make it easy for your Users to find, create and update records. You need to provide the information in a format that has the highest value to the audience.
If you’re new to the concept of Usability I’d recommend this book by Steve Krug called Don’t Make Me Think. It’s a quick read and gels Usability down to its core with a common sense approach to website design. It will give you a great usability “headset” when looking at how you organize, display and provide information to users in Salesforce.
Some quick take-aways from the book:
- Less is more, reduce the noise on the page
- Don’t over engineer a simple function
- Provide visual clues
- Be consistent in how you present information
- Make information easy to find
- Keep data entry to the absolute minimum
As a consultant or administrator, why should we be concerned or even bother with usability?
Good usability accomplishes the following:
- It drives adoption
- A consistent user experience accelerates learning (based on prior experiences, Users expect information to be presented in a certain way or for Salesforce to function in a certain manner – so don’t throw them a curve ball!)
- Speeds data entry
- Reduces duplicate records (search actually finds things!)
- Reduces the number of “clicks” to find information
- Reduces “page noise”
- Less calls to an Administrator 😉
- Happy Users = Happy CEOs!
So, presented in no particular order – here are a list of my favorite Usability “tweaks” to Salesforce. I admit up front some are my personal preferences, but many are just good practice.