Currently a large part of my team seems to live for delivering demonstrations of our new system, it is set to go live in the next few weeks and the team are out and about building an understanding across the organisation of what it will replace, what it will deliver, and how it will be used, almost a pre-training overview. A heart warming moment for me as someone who has been moving this system forward for three years, is the ‘Oohs and Aahs’ the system gets when an end user sees what it looks like and how it works. It looks good!

Some of the local systems now deployed in the NHS are neater, kinder on the eye and generally much easier to use than some of the monolithic national systems of yester year. Local configurability is an expectation in the systems deployed but is treated as a nice to have. My observation in the last year is that the successful systems that build a user base quickly are those that allow the user to make it work for them, allow them to make it be how they want it to be.

Lets consider the UI of an everyday item. No two iPhones are the same, everyone has a different theory as to how they should group their apps, what should be on the first screen, what constitutes a utility and should the music app really be in the same folder as the video app! There are even web sites and small ‘cults’ devoted to the set up of the iPhone UI. So why wouldn’t we expect the same of the systems that support us to do our job. Configurability of systems (local and national) means that the user owns the system far more, and ownership leads to the user considering the system to be their own, which to me indicates that the use of the system is placed at the center of the delivery of benefits.

As well as going live with our new major system that the organisation has fallen for we have also taken onboard these principles of a better UI and are applying them to the Clinical Research Network App Centre. The App Centre is a single place where all of the applications relating to the management of information for research can be found. Continuing with the theme of crowd sourced delivery utilised to gain a rapid release of the Open Data Platform we have tried hard to take on board a varied selection of opinions on what the best UI for the solution would look like. And the whole point behind these solutions being labeled as Apps is the way they can uniquely be configured to fit each users regular needs, much like the UI of the iPhone.

What is the most famous UI, the book maybe? And yet how to save a page in a book is equally debated and maybe even disagreed over as any modern UI. Are you a page-turner, a spine breaker, a number writer, a scrap of paper placer or a bookmark keeper? Personally if you borrow a book of mine then do try to be a bookmark keeper, but it’s a personal preference. That takes us back to the iPhone, the ability to configure the UI is what wins the user base over. A lesson it would seem that Qlik have learnt well with their new solution, not a replacement for Qlik View, more a step into a more varied market. However for us though, as an organisation that delivers a great deal of BI on Qlik, Sense is a giant leap that helps hugely as it puts some of the UI creation back in the hands of the user, and when you have spent time striving to make users fans of systems this goes a very long way!

Linkedin showed me a comment a couple of connections had shared in the last week, ‘If you need to explain the UI then you haven’t created a UI!’ It struck me as being a quote or phrase that we needed to apply to the configurable UI ‘set’. Whilst the ability to create and configure UI seems to be important it has to be easy to do. Both Apple with the iPhone and Qlik with Qlik Sense have done this, they have been able to make a configurable UI that is so intuitive that any user can start to deliver a system for themselves with their own personal benefits at the center of it.

So, if the book is the most famous UI that has a configurable nature that the fan can change then from now on in all our systems need to emulate this to truly gain acceptance, adoption and drive the release of real benefit. Welcome to the new world of clean, configurable UI.


POST SCRIPT – So maybe the book as the original UI is wrong? In a bar in DC and it would seem that the oldest UI is more likely to be the ‘drink’! The lady in the next bar fly seat would like such a specific drink I needed to take notes, and yet the bar man, the developer of the UI, never even blinked, he turned and began to make the….

‘Hendricks and Vodka, super super cold, extra ice, no zest with a lemon and lime, and I mean don’t put the zest in! When its together can you bring it here to be mixed, I need it to be really mixed!’

Thats a definition of a UI requirement!