How Does AdaptUX Deliver the Ultimate Recruitment Software User Experience?
With the launch of AdaptUX just around the corner, Shane Wheeler, Marketing Communications Executive, Bond International Software, sat down with Bond’s Chief Technical Officer, Daniel Richardson and Head of Product Development, Rob Hayesmore, to find out how the Bond team researched, developed and delivered the system proudly claiming to offer recruiters ‘the ultimate User eXperience’…
What kind of recruitment industry research did Bond undertake when creating AdaptUX?
Daniel Richardson: We wanted to improve the interface and we wanted something cool, but we weren’t a hundred percent sure what that actually meant. So we asked a lot of our clients and internal stakeholders and they came up with similar concepts to the ones we were considering, which was great, but we wanted something extra. We consulted an external company of usability experts, not a design agency per se, but specialists in the user experience of software, and they did many things in order to come up with a proposal for us. We trained them on Adapt, so they could understand how recruiters were using the application in terms of how we designed it. We shared our existing client feedback with them, both positive and negative and, this was the really cool part, they consulted some of our clients and prospects, to understand exactly how they used their software. They visited some of our clients and sat beside some of their recruiters to see what was frustrating them, if they suddenly wrote something down which they should have been storing within Adapt for example. Weighing-up all that information, they wrote a lengthy document and proposed some changes in order to improve the application. In some instances it was quite difficult reading, especially when they found areas of the system that we thought were exactly right were actually being under-used, or areas we thought were not particularly popular were being used very heavily. So we started the iterative process of redesigning screens and collaborating with the usability experts and our clients to create AdaptUX.
Rob Hayesmore: Everyone got excited about the usability expert’s proposals. It was very interesting to see non-technical people get excited about the technical process of re-designing the software.
How has Bond’s industry research and the usability expert’s input actually been worked into AdaptUX?
RH: A large part of the outcome of our research was around streamlining the system and laying out the screens in the right ways. We applied those principles throughout the design of AdaptUX. Everything from calendar, journal and record displays to system navigation and notifications; all of those areas have been re-designed to reduce the number of clicks and present the information in the most intuitive ways. We thought very carefully about the screen layouts; as the eye scans across the top area, that’s the key information, you drop down and you have the CV or job description, move back across and there’s information on skills and industry sectors. The eye flows very well around the screen and easily finds the data.
It’s fascinating how the eye naturally scans screens and absorbs information…
DR: It’s called the ‘F-type’. When people in the Western world look at a webpage, they start in the top left corner, move across to the right hand side, move back down again, then go halfway across the screen. As you’re quickly scanning the screen it follows the shape of an F. That’s how we’ve designed the AdaptUX screens. You have the sliding menu bar on the left hand side, the toolbar along the top, and key information such as CVs form the lower part of the F. In other markets we follow the Z-type, which is where you quickly scan the screen in a Z shape, which tends to happen mostly in the APAC region.
Compared to the previous version, how has the AdaptUX system navigation been improved?
DR: The main things we were looking to achieve with AdaptUX were making it faster and more intuitive. Not just faster from a technical perspective, but for the recruiter’s whole experience. One of the first things we did was go through the entire application and re-design some of the core aspects of the data to bring it together in multiple places. We brought some of the information based on other screens onto the first screen…
RH: …absolutely, when you’re looking at a candidate record the first screen contains all the information you need at a glance. There’s no need to navigate away and look at other screens, making it faster and easier for consultants to work with candidates. The same is true of company, job and contact records; we’ve worked very hard to make sure those first screens present all the information users need.
DR: In the previous version of Adapt, you were able to look at someone’s CV, but you had to go into a secondary screen or double-click in order to open the CV as a Word document. You can still do that in AdaptUX if you prefer, but now we’ve embedded those documents within the front screen via scrollable windows. Those kinds of changes reduce the amount of traffic sent over the internet and make the application itself more responsive. We’ve also refactored some of the code to make it more efficient; so the whole experience, from a functional and technical perspective, is a lot more immersive for end users.
And the fly-outs look great…
DR: Yes, there are lots of areas where fly-outs appear. If you hover over a LinkedIn URL for instance, a fly-out to the main LinkedIn page pops-up, so you can actually see the profile right there without further clicks or manual steps. The same is true for other aspects of the system, if you hover over someone’s name or a company name a fly-out will appear so you can quickly see the information, move away and the fly-out disappears. We’ve made it very quick and easy, no need to click through or risk losing where you happen to be onscreen.
How will users of AdaptUX notice the system is intuitive?
DR: A lot of software providers in a lot of industries talk about intuitiveness, but it means different things to different people. We considered the intuitive nature of Adapt and tried to really understand what that meant on a deeper level. We’ve also seen the massive uptake of tablet style user interface designs and studied how they work, why my three year old can easily use them when some desktop style technologies can be more difficult. What we’ve done is merge these approaches without losing the things recruiters need to do which are necessarily complex. For example, AdaptUX has a sliding menu bar on the left hand side which novice users can expand to see all the specific areas of the application and expert users can dock to just have the icon view and gain additional screen space. We’ve applied that concept to other areas too, such as the header bar at the top of the screen displaying alerts, reminders, emails and so on; people are used to pressing those icons on a tablet and know if there’s a number above them, they have new information to view.
RH: And we’ve re-designed the icons throughout the system so they’re clearer and more intuitive. They’re the icons people expect to see, making it quicker and easier to learn the system and make the best use of it.
DR: That’s a good point, if you wound the clock back five or six years, everyone was into colour, they’d moved away from some of the grey drabness of the early versions of Windows and everything was full colour, which was great but it could be a problem trying to highlight specific functions onscreen. Now, streamlining applications and having just a small red number 3 above an icon can quickly draw the user’s attention and help them take the appropriate action.
How does fully integrating tasks and diary management work to help recruiters be more efficient?
RH: The AdaptUX tasks and diary management system is fully integrated with the workflow system and visible to users through integrated calendar and task views. One of the new features in AdaptUX brings this integration right to the fore. Via the notification icons in the header bar, you can instantly see how many appointments you have that day, how many outstanding tasks, and if other users are running workflow in the system which are allocating tasks or making calendar bookings, they update in real time and you can see those numbers changing. A single click, wherever you are in the system, displays any new appointments or any new tasks that have been allocated to you.
DR: Yes, that’s really cool, they don’t have to send them another email or shout across the office, “I’ve just allocated you another task”; they can just see it instantly.
RH: Yes, it just pops-up. We’ve also improved the real-time notification system, so as well as the notification icons, you can also have pop-up notification messages which fade in over the AdaptUX user interface, don’t prevent you from continuing to work with AdaptUX then fade out after a period of time. Giving users a helpful visual cue, such as a preview of an email received in Outlook for example.
Why is recruitment software speed so important?
RH: Speed is important because some of the activity recruitment consultants carry out is very time-bound. If a recruiter has a new assignment for example, they may have limited time to fill the requirement before someone else beats them to it. So streamlining the whole process to enable recruiters to identify the right candidates and put them forward as quickly as possible is key. There are two broad aspects to that, the functionality of the application and the way users interact with it and the technical aspects behind the scenes to optimise the software speed.
DR: Both are very important considerations. From a speed perspective it’s about making things quicker for recruiters which is great and, also, if things are completing more quickly there’s more capacity within our cloud infrastructure to host more customers, which reduces our cost base and enables us to pass those savings on to our customers. Speed will always be important and it will always be something we’re looking to improve.
How do you actually improve software speeds?
DR: From a system perspective we’ve done a number of things. We operate a number of tools throughout the lifecycle of our solutions, including our historic solutions, to enable us to fully understand which elements of the software are working efficiently and which are working less efficiently than they should. We use these tools to see if any inefficiency we may find is due to our infrastructure. It might be as simple as more memory is needed, or the actual code might need to be factored. With AdaptUX, we’ve refactored some areas of code which means, under the hood, the system is faster and more efficient.
What kinds of things will AdaptUX customers see due to this under the hood work?
DR: To give two specific examples of how we’ve optimised our cloud delivery – one important aspect is the time it takes for data and screens to flow from the servers we host in London to the end user’s screen. If that transport is inefficient it’s going to take a lot longer for information to travel and, fundamentally, it means the customer would need bigger circuits, bigger bandwidth in order to accommodate the data. So if we can reduce the amount of traffic, the agreements our customers have with their ISPs are a lot more cost-effective. We’ve done a lot of work to make sure the information flowing between us and our customers is only the information they request, so if they request a particular screen, they don’t get six or seven hidden screens they haven’t requested, they only get the data they see. The second example is document handling. In the world of recruitment, large documents such as CVs, job descriptions and terms and conditions often flow back and forth, so AdaptUX has inbuilt technology enabling those documents to be tracked. Most people handling documents on webpages are probably used to opening up the document, changing it, going back to the underlying website and then having to import it. Multiple screens can get in the way, anti-virus might pop-up and say ‘Do you really want to do this?’ and it can all become quite clunky. AdaptUX smooths out this whole process. You can simply open up a document by clicking on it within the AdaptUX screen, make the necessary changes in Word or a similar application, then just close that application down and AdaptUX will automatically handle bringing the data back into the system. No need to do anything else or go to any other screens and import the document; and you can even have multiple documents on the go at any one time. Traffic is more efficient, less error-prone and the process is more intuitive for the recruiter.
RH: We’ve also improved the utilities surrounding AdaptUX. The Adapt Outlook Add-in for example has been optimised to reduce its traffic by approximately 50%, which has a significant impact on the available bandwidth and performance of AdaptUX. So it’s not just AdaptUX, its other aspects around the system too.
DR: Some of the improvements we’ve made in certain areas are only 5 to 10%, which sounds quite small, but when you add those up across our entire client base, it’s quite substantial. We’ve been able to tangibly plot the improvements and they’ve certainly been worthwhile. Many man years of development and effort have gone into the making of AdaptUX and we’re confident our prospects and customers are going to be very excited about the new features it contains.
To find out more information on AdaptUX, you can download a brochure here, or request a demo here.