Creating visually appealing, customer-focused software for agriculture retailers is at the heart of the development of Agvance. Austin Smith, User Experience Designer explains that SSI has embraced customer-focused software saying, “At SSI, we value that the everyday user is the expert and by better understanding how they do business we can deliver what the customer wants.”
Focusing on the Customer
Creating software to best meet customer needs can be explained through a story, that may be recognizable to some, regarding horses and cars. Before cars, if you asked a person with a horse what they want, they will say a faster horse only because they didn’t know a car was even a possibility. Smith retells this familiar story adding “if you do not know what is possible, you don’t always know what to ask for.” Brittany Bullock, also a User Experience Designer, agrees and adds, “we observe exactly how they [the customer] are doing a process by the user sharing their Agvance screen and we can see the process now and how they prefer it works.” By defining a target role or user, for example a Controller or AR clerk, and meeting virtually or in-person with a specific customer in that role, the exact customer steps and desired outcomes are documented. The customer explanation is essential to developers to create functions needed to make the end-users job easier.
Testing and Perfecting
Those initial discussions with customers are only beginning. Customer input is cultivated throughout the development of new or improved Agvance features. Once an enhancement has been added based on the user story or experience, it is brought back to the customer for testing. Again, research is gathered from the customer and brought back to the Development Team. Then, as development is further perfected, the customer tests it again with their own data and additional feedback is gathered. Smith says that sometimes “the exact customer request is what is developed and other times we take the information and make it into something they [the customer] didn’t even know how to ask for.” Bullock adds that, “sometimes the customer just wants to see the same process they use in windows-based Agvance in the cloud, and it is rewarding to help them see how it can be different and better in Agvance SKY.”
In addition to designing specifically for customer needs, visual appeal also tops the list of design objectives at SSI. Agvance SKY has a foundation of design objectives that include meeting industry and accessibility standards as well as an internal SSI style guide. Colors, fonts, sizing, and a vast library of components are all selected for visual appeal and ease of use. In addition, design aspects create expected functionality from one Agvance module to the next. The design is built on core components but always evolving and adapting to grow with Agvance SKY.
Whether creating a new feature or enhancing an existing feature, an easy-to-use design is part of the process from the very beginning. The team at SSI is focused on creating Agvance to act and behave in a natural and intuitive way. “We have made significant investments to make Agvance SKY as intuitive and easy to use as possible. I think it is one of the many things that really sets us apart,” says Todd Erickson, VP of Development at SSI.
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