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Our organization has 6 applications that our end-users interact with on a daily basis. Each application is developed by a separate team and lives in their own solution files. We've made an effort in the past 12 months to enforce design standards around our applications so that for the most part they each look and feel the same. Due to the coupling, legacy code and old controls, it's difficult to make sweeping design changes across all the applications. My question is, in this type of environment if we want to take our organization to the next step in terms of UI and UX, how would we go about it considering it's unreasonable to assume that it can be done to all six applications simultaneously within a timely manner? Is it okay to focus on one application and make it the best that we can and if so, how will our user percieve that? Will we detriment the user experience by having one application look different than the others that the user interacts with?

Example workflow:

Login > application 1 > application 2 > application 1 > application 3 > application 1 > logout

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With any massive change / overhaul, you have to start somewhere. The most important thing is that you start.

If you want to prioritize, try doing some research (perhaps even some usability testing) with your user base to discover what things they struggle with, or what annoys them the most. It can be as informal as a quick chat if you are short on time / resources.

From there, depending on your findings, there are 2 routes you can take to organize this:

  • Target one small but important usability issue in all 6 applications. Rinse and repeat until happy with them all.
  • Make one application a flagship product, and let that become the template for the other applications.

The first option is good because it

  • Maintains consistency between all your applications.
  • Doesn't present your users with an immediate steep learning curve.
  • Allows you to gather detailed feedback on the effect of each small change.

The second option is good because it

  • Is a wonderful way to communicate to the other teams how their own product should evolve.
  • Really shows your customers what you can do to improve (can be great PR).

The choice depends on which points are the most important for your organization.

In my experience, users tend to respond well to any efforts to make their life easier, particularly if the software they are using is related to their job (hence they are somewhat stuck using it). If you are making changes that really help them, and you communicate clearly what you are doing (with a timeline for the project), they will be patient whichever route you choose.

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You are saying "organization has 6 applications" right. This is same with stackexchange.com

Do you know, there was no stackexchange.com earlier, it was only stackoverflow.com

But as time passes and there product becomes more and more tasty, there service banged the Q/A forums. Now there are about 50 Q/A forums with different scope.

In terms of UX and UI, they have created a wonderful solution

UX : All the states, controls and behavior of websites are similar. 100 % damn UI : Looking and all UI concepts are different depending upon the type of website.

Example - Buttons and links of stackoverflow.com are bit different then ux.stackexchange.com

So if your anthem(Q/A for stackexchange.com) is similar then UI is more effective.

But if anthem is different, which i think can be your issue then concentrate on the primary skeleton of your main website. It should be uniform for all sub websites. Like Google products. They have different solutions but there skeleton is always similar.

Think about your main UI|UX skeleton :)

User will definitely feel good

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I very much agree with @Franchesca. I just want to add that, depending on your organization, the choice between the first and second options will be based on internal organizational culture and politics, which includes the balance of stakeholders' power and interests, as well as the support by top management.

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