Nowadays, most business software will sport the any device tag meaning you can use it on your phone, tablet or desktop. But all too often, this means adding some media queries to the existing desktop web application and throwing it on a mobile device. Usually, the result is a terrible user experience (UX).
Similarly, for web designers, mobile first has become the ‘buzzword du jour’. Mobile first prioritizes mobile devices over PCs and other devices. Might make sense for games, social networks etc. but blindly following this paradigm for enterprise apps also leads to a terrible user experience – see Windows 8 on the desktop.
At frevvo, we think People First
There’s no point in prioritizing the quirks of individual devices. Instead, we prioritize how people use apps on different devices and try to provide a natural user experience everywhere. It’s practically impossible for enterprise developers to do – they’ll almost always prioritize data integration and offline use over sexy screens and fast UX. Customers use frevvo to create enterprise apps like Employee On-Boarding. The designer is often not a professional developer but a business engineer. For our product, people first then translates into:
Let the business engineers design forms and flows to meet business requirements. We’ll take care of providing the natural user experience everywhere.
We’ve invested tons of effort in this area. I’ll highlight a few items below. All this works without the form/flow designer having to do anything.
Bigger everything: controls, buttons and icons are automatically a little bit bigger on mobile devices so they’re much easier to select or click with your finger.
Responsive: frevvo forms will automatically adjust to different screen sizes and orientations. Where it’s not possible to adjust the layout such as a Table, frevvo will add a scrollbar. It’s not easy – even Amazon and GMail can’t get it right.
Navigation: Break up a long form into multiple pages using a PageBreak control. frevvo will automatically add Back and Next buttons and enable/disable as necessary.
Look & Feel: Decorators & Styles provide that extra quality that makes for a beautiful and enjoyable UX. And, you can customize the appearance to suit your tastes without compromising the people first approach.
Mobile aware controls: On mobile, date controls use the native picker as do drop down controls. Users can sign with their finger on the touch screen. Upload controls can use the camera to attach photos. Geo location uses the device’s built-in GPS.
Spaces: these handy mini-portals that come with frevvo look totally different depending on your device. On a mobile device, the user experience is natural – touch large icons with your finger vs navigating a drop down menu.
Task List: it looks and works differently depending on your device. As before, the priority is people first natural usability everywhere.
We’ll continue to invest more and more so customers don’t have to worry about CSS3 and HTML5 and can simply focus on their business requirements and be sure of a great enterprise UX.
“The popular wisdom that the cloud comes in three flavors (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS) does not provide a realistic picture of the current landscape.”
It’s always bothered me too. What is frevvo? Well, in the conventional wisdom, we must be a PaaS company. But what the heck does that mean? We’re certainly not targeting professional developers but business users [who are curious about technology]. Johan proposes a framework that breaks things down into multiple layers that describe a range of approaches.
I’m not sure that I’d go about calling frevvo a “Model-Driven PaaS” but our customers are often business people who don’t write software for a living but still need to create applications (forms and workflows in our case) that collect and manage data and documents. Obviously, they’re interested in technology so I like the “business engineer” terminology used in the article. They’re comfortable with dragging and dropping to design web forms and approval processes, configuring email addresses and high-level business rules, and viewing submission data in an Excel spreadsheet or a PDF. frevvo’s value is in empowering these “business engineers” with:
Ease of use: frevvo hides the technical details of designing business web forms.
Mobile: frevvo forms automatically work on everything from a smart phone to a tablet to a desktop screen, they’re responsive, make use of the touch screen etc.
Cloud: frevvo works in a standard web browser with zero installation.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed an approval process that collects comments/a signature from an external, anonymous person. This second pattern is another common approval process where an employee forwards a request to his/her manager. The manager can approve/reject the request or ask the employee for more information. A common variation is where a supervisor or VP has to further approve in some situations e.g. the amount is greater than $1,000.
Some examples might be:
Employee submits a Purchase Requisition (purchase request).
Student course/schedule changes approved by advisor.
Contract approval by supervisor.
With frevvo 5.3, automating this process is straightforward.
Drag and drop the internal employee form(s) into the workflow and use the Form Designer to layout/arrange controls. Typically, you’d add the manager and VP sections to this same form and hide them in the first step. Currently, this requires a simple business rule but we’ll soon be removing the need to write a rule.
Use a linked step for the manager and configure it to route [dynamically] to the employee’s manager using a built-in template.
If required, use a linked activity for the VP and configure it to route to the VP. Set a pre-condition on this activity so it only runs if the condition is true.
The final step could be to route to an HR or Purchasing role, to integrate with a database or with a back end system.
That’s it. How does it work? The employee accesses the workflow (preferably via a frevvo space) and fills in the form, signs it and clicks Continue.
frevvo will send that employee’s manager a notification, which the designer can customize. The manager clicks on the notification [on any device], can view the purchase request and approve it or send it back for corrections. If approved, the workflow will be routed to the VP for further approval if the set condition is true otherwise it will continue to the next step for fulfillment.
Document workflows involving an approval process (a signature, comment, review or some combination) are a very common use case for our customers. In this series of articles, I’ll illustrate several design patterns and show you how to automate the workflow.
This first approval process starts with an internal employee requesting something from someone outside your organization. The external person fills in and signs one or more online forms without needing to login/authenticate. The completed documents then come back to the same or another internal employee for further processing.
Some examples might be:
Collect one or more signatures on documents (purchase order, lease …).
Request a quote from a supplier or vendor.
Obtain a reference for a job application.
With frevvo 5.3, automating this process is trivial.
Drag and drop the internal employee form(s) into the workflow and use the Form Designer to layout/arrange controls.
Drop in a separate form (or use a linked activity) for the anonymous external person and add desired controls e.g. a signature. Make sure this step has no role or user assigned to it.
Drop an Email activity in between. Configure the email address. Typically, you’d use a template so the email address of the recipient is entered by the internal employee. You probably want to customize the default email message as well.
Drop in forms (or another linked activity) for the subsequent processing step by an internal employee. Make sure you either assign a role or a user to this step. For example, if you want the workflow to return to the originating person, you can use a template that’s automatically populated with that person’s user id.
That’s it. How does it work? Say, you’re requesting a quote from a vendor. The employee starts the process, enters the vendor’s email address and other information and clicks the Send button.
frevvo will send your customized email to the vendor with a unique URL. The vendor can click the URL and fill in the quote and sign it. Upon completion, he/she clicks the Continue button and the workflow returns to the originating employee. Vendor’s on the road using a smart phone or tablet? No worries – just click the link in your email and it’ll automatically render a mobile version.