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5 Tips for Building Tablet-First Business Applications

tabletBy Rivi Aspler

Congratulations, you have just gotten approval to build a tablet-first business application.

This scenario is nothing new when your product has been designed initially for the mobile consumer, but is a professional dream-come-true for the traditional B2B Product Manager.

As always, talking the talk is easy. Walking the walk is a challenge. Not only are there very few best practices for building mobile-first B2B applications, but there are still very few business users who work on tablets for the majority of their day.

This post is an attempt to capture some of the growing knowledge of business mobile applications so that your product investments are utilized in the best possible manner.

1 – Expect Two Modes of Usage: ‘On-The-Go’ and ‘In-The-Office’

If your product handles heavy-duty tasks (good SW examples are Photoshop, SolidWorks and AutoCAD), then unlike traditional desktop products, the importance of a focused MVP (Minimal Viable Product) per resolution size becomes a critical decision.

You must define what tasks the target user will want to complete ‘On-The-Go’. For example, urgently addressing alerts or the handling simple but very common tasks that one can do without much attention to little details)?  Such features will go into the MVP-tablet application with a mobile UI (touch gestures, layered content etc.)

In parallel, you must assume that your users will connect their tablets to a large resolution screen for at least a few hours a day and certainly for the heavy-duty tasks. You must therefore define those heavy-duty tasks and make sure that they can be performed using a mouse and a keyboard as well.

2 – Carefully define your Mobile-First MVP (Minimal Viable Product)

If your B2B product is mature, module-rich, crossing verticals and internationalized, your tablet-first version will not be able to meet the needs of all geographies, all verticals, all types of users and all types of tasks. Making sure you are leveraging your limited resources effectively, you should decide which geographies, which verticals, which users and which types of tasks you focusing on first.

3 – Re-Design the Application to Fit Mobile UX Guidelines

Leverage the mobile-UX knowledge that has already been gathered and documented.  Good sources of information are: Android Design, your place for learning how to design Android apps or Designing for iOS 7  websites.

4 – Test your Product UX with Millennials

You obviously want to know if you are doing a good job with the UX design of the tablet-first application. Unfortunately a usability test with mouse and keyboard savvy people will not give you the results that you are looking for. They will not be happy with the UX unless it imitates the product that they already know.

Millenials are those born (roughly) between 1977 and 1992 – or those currently between 22-37. They are mobile and technology savvy,  they represent the upcoming target mobile users, and will do a great job testing your new UX.

5 – Sales Strategy – Throw in a bunch of cost-effective tablets

Tablets as an in-office tool are not very common yet. Don’t let it be a show stopper for your mobile first product. Since there are many types of cost-effective tablets out there, you should test multiple different tables. as well as the the software itself on those tablets.

Oh… and don’t forget, if you are building a mobile-first heavy-duty business application, you are amongst the first ones to do so. You are therefore bound to make some mistakes. Embracing the challenge as well as the frustration is a necessity.


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About the author

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.