1. For an emerging economy where a user could be a first time computer/tablet user and has no experience of using a system before

  2. May not be a graduate or even pre-graduate and doesn't have high levels of curiosity.

  3. Could be a novice at work (has just started working at his/her workplace)

ERP is a system for the employees to help do their respective daily operations in an integrated manner, i.e. work of USER1 may be an input to USER2 and it may happen across personas as well. Daily operations may vary from form filling, searching, filtering, find out pending tasks, analyzing, etc.

What all pre-conditions should be set for a user to use the system?

Ideally the answer to above question should be 'none', however that may not be a practical scenario.

Are there any guidelines for designing user-experience for such systems?

  • 2
    ERP as in Enterprise Resource Planning? Those have thousands of tasks, from simple data entry to advanced inventory forecast queries.
    – MSalters
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 12:02
  • @MSalters yes. I believe a next generation ERP vendors should consider these scenarios otherwise spend fortunes in Customer Service, Trainings, etc Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 13:55
  • 1
    From a UX viewpoint, there is no such thing as the user of an Enterprise Resource Planning software package.These are complex systems with many users, executing different tasks. E.g. the most simple task could be to aim a barcode scanner at each incoming package of a warehouse. Computer literacy required: zero.
    – MSalters
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 14:00
  • @MSalters how do I ensure that no computer literacy is required, any pointers/references/studies/guidelines for the same? Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 6:11
  • 1
    You're probably skipping multiple steps. In general, it must be clear what you mean by "user". For a simple note-taking app on a mobile phone, "user" is obviously the phone owner who makes notes. ERP systems are literally a million time more complex. Your ERP system will have multiple users, some roles will require advanced computer skills, and other roles will require advanced business skills.
    – MSalters
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 8:43

4 Answers 4


Well, none.

I think a designer of such a system would be at a marvelous advantage of not having to comply to anything if the users have literally no expectations from the system. You get to use what you think is best for them, not what we have to repeat systematically because it is done like this since Doug Engelbart and not copy successful companies' ways.

This being said, a designer will really have to develop a fool-proof safety net for the users who will navigate the system.

I think the best way to do that would be to gather all possible use-cases and create wizards for all kinds of tasks (since they don't know how to do the smallest things) and group them in maybe three big activities.

I would also employ gamification to keep them engaged and to educate them. I think two most relevant elements here would be levels (from the apprentice to the master) and points/stars.

Regarding IA and UI structure, you could think towards game interfaces, they are pretty self-explanatory if done well.

People with less experience with computers will probably benefit from the richly illustrated and very self-explanatory elements (so don't omit labels from icons).

System tour is a must and must be accessible from all points of the system.

In all, I would think less of "down to business" approach and more of a humane and patient guidance.

  • 1
    Thanks Zoe, I agree that users may not expect the app to behave the way business apps normally do and it is an advantage. But I think such users (maybe based on different cultures) may still have certain expectations such as that of Authority (who will define tasks for them), institute or organization (with whom they are doing business), or a tool (a means to an end). However, I also agree that gamification can help them overcome all those things and increase the level of curiosity among them. Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 17:08
  • Wow. Thanks for choosing my answer, Gurvinder. I have to add I really enjoyed your question because 10 years ago my home country was also an emerging economy and we hardly knew what to expect from computers. It was nostalgic to remember those times ;-)
    – Zoe K
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 19:09

The guideline is: do field research. Go out, read Chipchase's Hidden in Plain Sight, equip yourself with some early prototypes (you said no previous computer experience, so something like Marvel or InVision would suffice I guess), buy a plane ticket, hire local teams and do the research for yourself.

For desk research, read the Mozilla UX posts on emerging markets, the Global UX book, and always bear in mind:

most western innovations in the emerging markets fail because of misunderstanding and underestimation of people living there.

Personally, I despise IDEO's Human Centered Design Toolkit, it acts like emerging markets lack talent, not resources.

Most people in emerging markets have seen computers and mobile phones. It's fine if they train each other, if children could learn how to use an ordinary PC without any of them ever seeing one before, people will be able to learn how to handle the given UI for money.

People here, including my mother, could be told to use Windows Form based applications (and even DOS ones) without previous computer experience. She didn't know what she is doing, and she had a lot of notes on how to conduct the daily tasks (opening the day, filing an invoice, closing a day, etc), but she still managed to do it.

So, for me it seems, since my mother could learn it at the age of 40 to use SAP (always believed computers are for us, children, then was confronted by a choice), it's not about literacy. They'll gain it.

But do the research regardless and see the results for yourself, that's the only sure way of knowing it.

  • Thanks Aadaam, but I think the reason why kids are able to learn PC on their own is due to their curiosity to know this gadget and they see a huge payoff since they can boast in front of peers. People in emerging markets are already carrying on with their business without these tools. Sure that there are benefits of using these tools but they are more apparent to people at a high level employers, not the employees. Good suggestions and links though, especially the Mozilla one. Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 7:55
  • My mom was 40 when she had to learn computers, from the basics. Of course, people are afraid of changes in procedures and procedural memory is the most age-dependent (the abilities to learn new procedures degrade over time) and therefore there is a great pressure, but that's why you can't do revolutionary steps there, and also a huge change in processes usually comes with a huge change in employment (as in, mass layoffs, mass quits, mass hirings). A great demonstration video on mental model change is here: youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0
    – Aadaam
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 21:00
  • Thanks Aadaam. Huge change in employment cannot be triggered by tech-vendors or tech-providers. I agree with your point on procedural memory. Someone who has an already settled lifestyle will find it hard to accept changes, which is why I felt that motivation should come from within. And it was precisely the reason why I chose @Zoe-k answer because I felt I can make people curious to figure out things by using gamification. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 5:04
  • @gurvinder372: except that gamification is an external motivator, and gamifying work culture has a success rate close to 0%. Wizards is tunneling, and usually causes frustration, it's better to use Clear Entry Point and Primary Action patterns. But these are all the things which you realize when you go out to the fields watching these people do their jobs - I get the feeling that you wanted a view which supports some preconception. Good luck with that, but remember to check it with watching people closely.
    – Aadaam
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 4:06
  • An important video on external vs internal motivation (again, gamification is a kind of bonus system, and - at least at the gamified places I've worked at - is directly connected to eventual salary): youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc
    – Aadaam
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 4:13

The best way to answer this question is to ask oneself what would be the technology(ERP) adoption motivation for the users in question.

To answer that question we need to first carry out user segmentation based on the market, you would like to target. Once you have understood the market you then go about understanding their motivation to use ERP solutions.

The motivation to use ERP solution can be categorised into two;

  1. Internal - Ones own motivation to know about ERP, i.e one's eagerness to accomplish tasks using ERP and factors that stimulate an experience

and then the other is

  1. External influences - I am referring to an external regulation that would compel them to use ERP system ( For instance, one is asked to use the system by their employers). It could also be that the one might think that is a good option compared to another application.

To gather this qualitative information you need to start with a user research project which includes surveys, focus groups, preference interviews etc. As @MSalters said, you are skipping a lot of steps and I personally think it would not be right to think of guidelines at this point of time.

  • Arun, I really doubt that a user will be internally motivated to use an ERP since using an ERP is a big decision and it require an Org level decision rather than an individual level decision as ERP is going to suppose to build and maintain an eco-system of usage of Org's resources as well as doing daily activities. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 8:32

Apart from basic knowledge of handling a computer, It depends on what type of tasks the user is supposed to perform. It also depends on the existence and granularity of instructions.

Type of tasks:

  1. Serial data entry. User add records on the same view repeatedly from production orders.
  2. Manage production orders. User releases order to production when all material an resources is available according to plan. User start, monitor and close production orders
  3. Planning of production orders. Create production plans based on material flow and capacity planning. Have knowledge of production time by product in each work station.

The task list describes that the user not only need system knowledge, but also domain knowledge. Especially when tasks are more advanced.

To conclude, simple tasks can be performed using basic computer knowledge. Advanced task takes more than just running the ERP. You need knowledge of the factory as well.


It's possible to overcome a steep learning curve of a complex system by using detailed instructions. These instructions should be made as step-by-step user manuals with screenshots of every step (where appropriate). Think IKEA furniture assembler manuals (when they work).

For computer literacy, it's enough if a user can turn on the computer, sign in, open a text editor, add & edit text and save the file locally and at a file share. It's very basic to start with and the user will (hopefully) learn more if needed while working in the ERP.

  • Benny, at this early stage of the product I am not worried about planning tasks. Out of the first two, I am more inclined to work out the best practices in serial data entry since the frequence of use of such features is going to be large, say 200+ orders (an example, as there could be other tasks as well) per day. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 8:41
  • @gurvinder372 OK! See my updated answer. Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 6:20
  • Benny, thanks for your edit. Is it possible to possible to make things simple enough that it wont require a user manual? This ERP could possibly be used in different countries (not necessarily English) so the manual would have to built in different languages and this is also some thing very domain specific would require frequent releases as well which also mean that user manual will have to update with same frequency across all languages.. Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 8:22

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