Vaadin 24.4: Introducing the code-first AI-powered UI editor and React seamlessly integrated into the Vaadin platform

What makes a great business application?

Jouni Koivuviita
Jouni Koivuviita
On Jun 25, 2024 2:09:23 PM

I'm certain you have an intuitive sense of what makes a great business application and can probably name some great apps when you think about it. However, it might be hard to put into words how you can identify one.

I'm also confident that you can quickly think of a lousy business application – we've all encountered one at some point. It's usually much easier to point out the flaws, so I'll describe things that would irritate me in a work-related app.

Respect my time

Don’t waste my time with a tedious log-in process – get me in as quickly as possible with a touch ID, a face ID, or a passkey – whatever it takes to minimize the time spent logging in, no matter what device I’m using.

Don’t show a “splash screen”. Only load the things that I need right now, and start up the app in an instant. Show a skeleton screen if you must, instead of a blank screen if the app can’t start instantly.

Don’t be slow. Respond to user actions within a fraction of a second. If something takes or is going to take long, let me know. Don’t leave me guessing what’s going on. Did the app receive my inputs as expected? Fast software is the best software. How fast software directly indicates its engineering quality and slow software quickly erodes trust in the whole system and makes me reluctant to use it.

Don’t force me to move the mouse over long distances or jump between views to work through repetitive actions. Context menus and keyboard shortcuts are one of the primary power-user features. Make sure that I can execute repeating actions within a second. Offer bulk actions, automate, or let me delegate repetitive or tedious tasks to an AI assistant.

Don’t try to be clever or innovative with the user interface. Use well-established UI and interaction patterns – I don’t have the time or the patience to learn new ones when I need to get things done.

Don’t be ugly. I don’t think clearly or do my best work when annoyed by what I see. Pay attention to even the smallest visual details so my eyes don’t need to fixate on them and get distracted. You wouldn’t trust a person who appears disheveled and unprofessional to run your business – similarly, I wouldn’t trust an application that looks poorly designed to do the same.

Respect my effort

Don’t ever lose my data. If I’ve entered something in an app, I expect it to be there when I get back – even if it was just for a few seconds when my internet connection went offline, or if I suddenly ran out of battery on my phone.

Don’t assume everyone is the same. Respect my preferences and disabilities, whether color blindness, low vision, light sensitivity, reduced motor skills, motion sickness, or simply my favorite color.

Respect my team’s time and effort

Don’t assume I work alone. Make it easy for me to share my work and let my team know what I’m working on—in real time, regardless of time or location—and let them help me so I don’t get stuck. And vice versa. But allow me to be in control when I work and respect the work-life balance of the whole team.

Don’t make me jump between apps unnecessarily. Integrate relevant information across the range of apps we use to work together, from communication and project management tools to IDEs.

Ten characteristics of a modern business app

The above brief “rant” describes some of the things that I expect from a business application. By thinking of issues that would be irritating, we can start to see the opposite: what aspects would delight us in a modern business app.

At the start of the year, we spent some time with a group of Vaadiners and distilled our thinking into the ten characteristics Joonas outlined in his recent blog post about Vaadin 24.4.

Applications built today should exemplify as many of these features as possible to succeed in the current competitive landscape.

StarPass demo – an inspiration

The goal of the StarPass demo that we recently launched (pun intended 🚀🪐) is to be an example of this type of modern business app, although with a fictional use case and without implementing all features for real. Eventually, the source code will be public and can serve as a template and a source of inspiration for all Vaadin apps in the future.

This first version of StarPass is only a starting point and doesn’t yet showcase all of these characteristics. We’ll continue working towards checking all the boxes on the list in the coming months, and I’ll be blogging about the progress along the way. Meanwhile, I encourage you to use these characteristics as a checklist for your application and as an inspirational target of a modern business app. 

Finally, let us know in the comments if you agree with the characteristics on this list and what you think about the StarPass demo.

Try the StarPass demo →

Jouni Koivuviita
Jouni Koivuviita
Hi! I’m a long time Vaadiner since 2006. My goal has always been to provide you with the best UI components in the world for mobile and desktop web applications. Still hoping to get there eventually :D
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