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Background

Client is updating a legacy Windows application in phases, moving toward a browser based system. The first phase is a redesign to a customer manager where users update and delete customer information. This customer manager is currently used by all existing system workflows.

Problem

What they want is that when another process requires the customer manager, it will launch a web browser version where the user can input the information. Once complete the information, and user, will flow back to the desktop application to continue the process.

An example of this might be:

  1. User creates a new customer bank account in the windows shell.
  2. When creating a customer, the windows shell launches customer manager in the browser.
  3. User creates the customer information in the browser
  4. When the customer information is saved the system launches the windows shell application sharing the customer information and the bank account process continues.

Obviously the user experience is impacted since this is a move away from a unified interface.

Question

Does anyone have experience/insights/tips they can share on improving the experience in non-unified systems, specifically workflows between desktop and browser applications?

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You could embed the browser experience into the application, thus never taking the user out of their workflow. Make sure to have very robust failure modes in place, however, in case the online server is unreachable.

  • Thank you for your input. This was my first thought as well. However the current Ui is very windows 95, and they want a modern experience in the redesign. While application will remain the same the user will still need to switch context as the Ui will still not be unified. – Mark Oct 8 '15 at 17:20
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    Okay. Then I guess the only advice I have is, upon whatever action necessitates a switch, message the user that they will be moving from one application to another. Perhaps offer a way to disable those messages in the future. – Evan Oct 8 '15 at 18:46
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I have worked on a couple of legacy desktop applications and there were often discussions about moving towards a browser version.

The thought of having a hybrid system was never an option because you would need to have flows spreading on both systems and the context switch breaks the user experience, the same thing you are experiencing.

We do have a report on the desktop app that opens in the browser (technical reasons) and this is in the top of the user complaints list.

So I would advise not to do that. If possible, make the customer management part of the tasks available on both desktop (the old version) and web (the new version).

Users who get frustrated switching between the two systems can go back to the old way of doing things and users who are willing to work with the incomplete new system can continue to do that. This way you are exposing everybody to the new system, you are getting important feedback and preparing everybody for the inevitable retirement of the old system without creating major inconveniences.

  • My sentiment exactly. Thank you expressing so well. What I lack in the argument is any research that shows the user experience is impacted. Would you be able to point me to any studies or articles you might have come across – Mark Oct 8 '15 at 15:51
  • Unfortunately I have not come across any study on this subject. You can instead do some user testing yourself and record the sessions. If you need to convince someone from the management, just show them the parts where the users struggle. Researchers at Xerox did something similar in the 80's where they put some of the smartest people from the company to execute a trivial task as making a two sided copy of a document that took them more than 20 minutes to figure out how to do. The recording finally convinced the management that they have a real usability problem. – Ovidiu Berdila Oct 8 '15 at 20:00

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