We've been working in the Power Apps environment for around a year now, and are generally hitting our marks where it comes to building functionality. However, there seems to be a massive knowledge / information gap regarding building Power Apps functionality that is not only functional, but intuitive to use and visually pleasing. In some regards, the Power Apps framework feels antithetical to good design practice.
Has anyone come across decent resources for thinking about design and usability in a Power Apps context? Frameworks? It feels very sparse. Even the various Power Apps consultants I've been speaking to recently--trying to find design and usability support--can't seem to address the topic with any authority. Any suggestions or points to resources are appreciated. Thx!
Microsoft is a very big animal and there is huge issues with the NIH (Not Invented Here) factor with them a with most developers on the plant. I can say I personally have many users that I help with exactly this and they are happy. The first think that needs to be understood is that Users are different then the customers and this is 50% of making good SOLUTIONS. Then you need to understand the present parts of the process that works and why it works. Then ask the USERS how they would resolve it and help them down the path. This is 25% and then the Power Platform and all the tools and what they do in M365, this is the last 25% down the road to the true solution.
I understand (I believe) what you are saying and I believe it goes to the design aspect of intuitive and visually appealing. I find that MANY PowerApps designers are coming on board with the traditional 'development' approach. They tend to introduce aspects to the app that are based on what you would do in a Windows application. This is vastly different in the App world. Designers need to approach PowerApps with the mindset of the user and Apps. Think about the Apps that you would use on your phone for example - how many do you use that would try to show you 5000 rows of data in a gallery/list? But yet, so many want to put that into their PowerApp. How many pop up notices and messages when you try to do something? But yet, so many want to put that in rather than "walk" the user through putting together a successful submission before popping up errors and notices.
I could go on, but if this is what you are referring to, then yes, this is often seen. I believe though that this is common with many new frameworks - so many bring their baggage from other platforms and fail. Over time, best practices and better guidance prevail.
You hit the nail on the head. I feel like a lot of the guidance I see treats Power Apps like a solution for building old school client/server application front-ends instead of modern, intuitive user experiences. Even with the introduction of 'responsive' capabilities within the Power Apps designer, there is a general dearth of thinking and best practice related to common design problems. And, no-one at all seems to be providing thought leadership in areas such as "here's how you apply a user-centered design approach within the context and limitations of the Power Apps framework".
To be clear I have done a few Old school upgrade systems with PowerApps and they run very well but you always need to as the USER what they like about the old School System and what is missing. then you have the customer that says "I want it prettier" Then I ask them what is pretty about an Eraser or pencil? Users was tools and the customer pay the bills but reality needs to be handled well. Also a last point is that I see PowerApps developers that are brining the baggage and put in lines and lines, and lines of code, and asking why the system is slow. I then spend 15 minutes and shows using POWERAPPS correctly is faster and easier... Remember it is called Low Code for a reason and not associated to altitude. Everyone should always remember "Let the cloud to the heavy lifting"
I say don't even call it code...it's formulas. There is generally nothing that is code in PowerApps. It is all Excel-like. And yes, "developers" bring developer baggage into PowerApps design and end up thinking it's all code and end up with formulas that are WAY beyond complex and unnecessary - I could go on about that for way too long.
But, as for "improving" what a user already has - I say throw it out! Why I say this? History. Take yourself back to when Tablets first came out. Microsoft had a Tablet version of XP. What was tablet about it? It recognized tablet features. What was the same about the applications and system compared to desktop? NOTHING!
Now, think during that exact same time the iPad made its appearance. And it took off like wildfire. Why? Because it was all App based. It was "green field" - there were no "existing" apps to be ported over. Everyone was making new apps in a new app way - for EASY user use.
iPad crushed the windows tablet during that time. And again, my opinion, because everyone looked at the Applications that people were using and said, let's put that on a tablet - no (little) change. It was a poor user experience. If they had introduced a completely new App-like design, I believe it would have taken off much better.
So, moral of the story, capture "functionality" needed. Remember - "functionality" has nothing to do with design or the underlying tech. Then incorporate into a design that IS app-like and user friendly.
ALSO - consider your app. There ARE going to be those apps that are more application-like. They will have lots of moving parts. And, there are going to be apps that are user focused - do not cross the two.
In general, the feeling is, Apps should be simple and easy for a user to pick up and just start using it. If they need a manual or training session, reconsider your design!!
I am not sure why you feel the way you do... The problem with Apple and Microsoft is that Microsoft is not a Marketing company.
You can develop how you want or place formulas as you like to say it and you are correct Powerapps is built on the Excel Formulas so this is totally correct, but again many really try to make things difficult.
In the end whether people believe it or not the Users are the ones that need to be happy. I also have over 35 years of history that shows you need to get the users input about what they Like and do not like about a present process or system. Lets look at the wheel. Everyone likes the fact I is round other aspects can change but this is a true user input over many years, actually since the days of the cave men.
In the end this is exactly the issue Many people call there job solutions development but before I start a line of code or Formulas I have to have two Quantifiable opportunities or problem I am solving this is called a Value Proposition, and to have a solution you first have to have problems, in not it is a product in my mind and is most likely causing problems. It is much easier to implement a system when you do not take any of the things the user wants and improve on others. Productivity stays in place, User Delight is good, and you now have a foundation to build on in what I call the Pac-Man game of development Every "." = .01,.01 and every power pill is 1.X, 2.X. 3.X...
I am just stating what I have found to work and I am just one person sitting in a Ranch in Colombia dedicated to solving user problems, building on what is good and the things that are not good I build on when I can or adjust as best we can. Remember "We do not know what we do not know"
I believe you missed my contrast between the Tablet and the iPad. I am not contrasting the companies, I am contrasting the App vs the Application. Apple did not write the Apps that are in the Apple store, other people did. And, when they did, they started Green-Field. They said I'm on this device with touch and scroll and all kinds of new things, not to mention on a screen smaller than a regular monitor - and where's the mouse and the keyboard. It was a totally different world.
So, although you mentioned the eraser and the pencil - those are not functionality, those are interface. Functionality is "clear" and "edit". And when you try to do "clear" and "edit" you need to suit that to the device and the platform. YES, the users need "clear" and "edit", but giving them that in the way they used to do it (interface) may need to be dramatically changed. This to my point on interface related to the above tablet vs iPad. On the tablet, the interface did not change. People had to figure out how to find the "clear" and "Edit" button that were sized for a mouse to click on, but now they had a big fat finger to do it - and they found it hard to "aim" right on that icon. iPad developers just made them big icons to push on that "fit the finger".
AND...if at the end of the day, the user has the requirement of "clear" and "edit" met, then which interface will they want?
That was the contrast I was pointing out. Nothing to do with marketing versus development companies (and by the way, Apple is a Consumer Product company, Microsoft is a Tools and Systems company, Google is a Marketing company).
Ultimately, my point to be made was - in many cases, if you consider throwing out what you have (not the functionality) and approach from the standpoint of user flow and design, you might find adoption of the platform much more attainable to the users. If they are getting the same (or similar) to what they had before, they might find that PowerApps does not respond or act the way that their "old" used to...and thus may not adopt the "new".
Anyway - I see we have similar time in the industry, however I think I would like to be sitting in a ranch in Colombia too.
And, I believe (although we've not heard any responses from these lively conversations from @sbeauchem ) this kind of banter and detail might have been what was desired.?!
Keep the spirit alive....PowerApps!
The conversation has certainly been lively! I think what I'm hearing reinforces my perspective when I started this thread...if we want a common, framework-based approach to user-centered design in a Power Apps context (with shared theming and experience design patterns across our Power Apps application portfolio), we'll have to invent it ourselves.
Just a little disappointed that Microsoft or one of its consulting partners hasn't staked out a thought leadership position in this regard.
Agreed, but I believe it is still too early in the life of PowerApps. If I had to stake anything on it, I'd say that they are more interested, right now, in getting people to fully embrace and adopt the platform. If there is enough traction and people are really embracing, then perhaps there would be more toward best-practice and design patterns.
But, on the contrary, there are a lot of good App design patterns and practices out there for App design. So, there is no reason that those don't apply to PowerApps as well.
This sounds like the making of a new video 😉
The first Microsoft-sponsored Power Platform Conference is coming in September. 100+ speakers, 150+ sessions, and what's new and next for Power Platform.
Join us for two optional days of workshops and a 3-day conference, you can choose from over 130 sessions in multiple tracks and 25 workshops.