User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are integral parts of web application design. While UI refers to the visual layout of an application and uses screen elements such as textboxes, images. and drop-downs, UX involves an intuitive arrangement of UI elements to facilitate easier navigation and accessibility of the web application. While a good UI appeals aesthetically to users, an effective UX offers the user a host of benefits such as time saving, productivity gain, and ease of operation.
Evolving business needs have made digital transformation a necessity, and UI and UX are key areas for legacy transformation. While legacy applications provide stability, they are cumbersome and fail to provide a favorable user-experience. They lack flexibility and adaptability in catering to ever-changing business needs and become redundant with time.
The benefits of using a good UI and UX design are manifold and have a cascading effect on business. Some of the key benefits are:
- Usability: It facilitates the creation of a user-friendly interface, delighting the user, creating better traction, saving time, and improving productivity.
- Reliability: The in-built checks and balances make the application dependable and lend meaning to the user’s efforts, earning the end-user’s trust.
- Scalability: UI and UX designs leverage the latest technologies to make the application scalable by supporting omnichannels.
- Maintainability: UI and UX designs on newer technologies are easier to maintain, than decades-old legacy systems for which it is hard to find knowledgeable SMEs.
- Accessibility: Evolving business needs require anywhere, any-time accessibility of a user-friendly application, that caters to users with special requirements. UI and UX on new technologies are better adapted to deliver on this front.
- Security: A good UI and UX design plugs loopholes to check security breaches, lending credence to the application, and winning the user’s trust.
- Customizability: Modern UI and UX can be customized in accordance with the user’s requirements.
While there are multiple benefits of using the new UI and UX, there are some shortcomings too, that need to be analyzed, such as:
UI and UX Modernization – User Experience and Complexity
- End-user base-behavior and practices - Fear of the unknown and resistance to change Attempts to redesign the UI and UX of a legacy application are often hindered by lack of compatibility and familiarity, since end users are accustomed to a certain application flow and navigation. They tend to resist change. This initial resentment can be overcome by conducting training programs and hand-holding sessions. However, this requires investment of time and money.
- UX and UI modernization – Impact on business Building a new UI and UX is not a spontaneous exercise, but a well thought of consultative approach, where all stakeholders voice their opinions, highlighting pros and cons. It has been observed that creating a new UI and UX for a green field application is easier than modernizing an existing legacy application, where stakeholders must be convinced about the gains of a new UI, along with measures taken to shorten the learning-curve.
- Regulations, compliance, and security Legacy systems do not operate in silos and are part of an eco-system. This is challenging since modernization of some UI and UX of applications needs to comply with standards that are applicable to the other applications of the legacy system. Maintaining old and new applications together adds to operational costs. Security of the new UI and UX could also be compromised as other applications could be using outdated communication protocols.
UI and UX modernization approaches – Re-engineering vs one to one conversion
While modernizing a legacy application, two major concerns encountered are the cost of re-engineering and the cost of training to facilitate seamless adoption.
In legacy UI modernization, features of the UI are migrated to a new web technology as a one-to-one conversion. The UI for source and target applications are perceived as mirror images of each other, with minimal or no changes, the focus being technology migration. Since the status-quo is maintained on the layout and design of the interface, the UX remains the same. A product-based approach that can reverse engineer legacy source code and convert UI to new technologies may be leveraged to accelerate the one-to-one technology conversion.
Staged re-engineering and re-design
In this approach, end users are shown the one-on-one conversion of the application and the new UI and UX with modern web-elements. The new UI and UX is developed for redressing the various pain points of the legacy system and is presented to the end-users, highlighting the ease of use.
At this stage, various model-driven tools offering visual modeling, reverse engineering (from wireframes to create a working UI), and low code products (which help in dragging and dropping of UI and UX designs) are leveraged to accelerate the UI and UX development process. Since a consultative approach is used, the feedback of target users is captured in terms of working beta applications.
Modernization of UI and UX is challenging, and it seems daunting when viewed vis-à-vis a stable and running UI. However, considering that the benefits outweigh the challenges, UI and UX modernization is the way forward.