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Lets say we have an app that performs something like surveys. There are two primary types of users, administrative users who set up and build the surveys, (who are actually the customers), and the 'public' users being surved, who will also have accounts and profiles.

Here is my question. Considering how few views exist on the public end, and how different the function; is it appropriate to have a mildly different look and feel from the administrative areas? What kinds of value does this visual shift between the experiences hold?

Or should the two kinds of users get the same basic look and feel? Is there value to the two ends being visually consistent?

I caught myself preparing to go through the extra work of making a different look and feel for the public, but then realized there a good arguments on either side.

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Keep one important aspect in mind. Administration users dont tolerate bugs, they care more about a stable product that works really well. Since big decisions impacting multiple end users are made at this end. While end users, if there is a bug its ok to fix in a while, since its mostly impacting just this user or a smaller set of users. Create a very stable, reliable system for administrators, and a very easy good looking product for end users. –  Siddharth Sep 9 '12 at 4:48

2 Answers 2

I tend to keep the look and feel consistent in the sense that (spurious example) the left of two buttons will always be the affirmative button, or the right, but never a mix.

Beyond that, the UI should focus on allowing the user to complete their workflow as painlessly as possible, where painlessly means accurately and quickly.

That could differ in your case for an end user and an administrator. Here's an example. I encourage people to test their common workflows by literally doing the workflow a thousand times. By common I mean workflows a user may be expected to repeat many times in a given session.

Here's an admin workflow "Click add survey question"->"Select survey question type"->"Enter survey question"->Click save"->"Click 'yes' on confirmation dialog".

Now do that one thousand times and you will find the user has clicked that end yes 998 times and no twice. Lose the confirmation dialog, make sure they admin can undo their changes later.

For the end user, who may only actually use the system once (ever! to complete one survey) having a yes no confirmation at the end would likely help.

Thematically you may want the admin suite to look more muted than the survey page an end user gets simply because the administrator may be looking at it for 3 hours straight. And as hinted at above, the admin user may well be repeating these operations many times, so keep them slick and consistent.

Also, let's not forget that answering the questions in a survey is not the same as creating the questions in the survey. Sounds painfully obvious, but if they survey can take a "other information" type text field for questions, you may not include a spell checker. For your admin pages, entering the text, I'd damn well insist on having a spell checker there. Same operation, entering text, different required result.

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So you would fall on the side, that the two ends of the application should have modestly differing visual styles, because the goals are different? –  Fresheyeball Sep 8 '12 at 15:07
    
Yes, focus on the goal. Ask does the UI achieve the goal making the best of the constraints (resources, time, money). And it's interesting you say modestly. If the application took feedback from 5 year old children on their dining experience, the difference could be dramatic (fewer dinosaurs in the admin module?). Because money and time are finite, and because everyone needs a textbox, it's useful to use the same text box "widget" but be able to present them differently (themes). With that technical ground work you can vary the presentation more easily. –  Ian Sep 9 '12 at 11:36
    
Its not about time and money. We are willing to spend what is needed and take the time that is needed to achieve quality. –  Fresheyeball Sep 9 '12 at 15:47
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Absolutely, I don't disagree, but at the same time, time and money are finite. I think it is safe to say you don't have infinite time. You actually need a target "ship date" to focus your attention on delivering something as opposed to not delivering anything because it is not currently "good enough". As a part time perfectionist I know all about that :) –  Ian Sep 9 '12 at 21:40
  • In my opinion, your administrative user are going to be handful, compared to the end users who are actually going to take the survey, so I would say, concentrate more on the UX of the end users.

  • Again building a custom UX for a handful of admins means doing a lot of extra work. Moreover the admins who as you said are the customers are looking at how the user would actually feel using your app.

  • Normally the administrative users have a lot more tools / controls which the end users don't have. So having them in place for them, would anyway change the experience for them. So more control, more power, more authority is going to give them a different experience all together on the app.

  • The basic look and feel should be same, I don't find much value in having it different for a handful of admins as I mentioned previously.

  • And yes, there is plenty we can argue or discuss on having it differently or not, but this is entirely my opinion. I would go about with doing the aforementioned.

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Normally, yes, concentrate UX efforts on the most used parts, but as the admin users are the companies primary customers, I would concentrate a lot of effort on making it easy to set up and administer a survey. It is going to make a huge impact on the "marketability" of this site. –  Marjan Venema Sep 8 '12 at 9:05
    
Right, but again when a customer decides to take to your app / site / company, all he can see and analyze is the end user experience. The rest would just be documentation and screenshots, or a simulated demo and statistics. Again this is just my personal take on it! –  aliasgar Sep 8 '12 at 9:37
    
I think focus based on the number of users is a false indicator. Its more about the amount of time spent in total. 3 admins may spend 2 weeks preparing the surveys: 3 * 40 * 2 = 640 hours spent in the admin ui. While each survey taker may spend 1/2 hour in their respective survey. With 2000 end users, thats only 1000 hours. So the dichotomy between the admin and end user UX, is really only 1:1.56, not a huge difference. –  Fresheyeball Sep 8 '12 at 15:02
    
Also in that time the admins are coping with a far higher degree of complexity, making their experience in greater need of refinement. –  Fresheyeball Sep 8 '12 at 15:03
    
So I am not really asking about where to put focus, but weather or not there is value in having differing visual styles for the two ends of the application. You wrote "I don't find much value in having it different ..."; what value are you referring to? If there is any value there, than the UX's should differ. –  Fresheyeball Sep 8 '12 at 15:05

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