Looking past the glitz and glam: Is your SME’s tech meeting users’ needs?

Tech is constantly evolving. Often, it seems like every day a new piece of consumer or business technology hits the market. But in the case of technology for business users, is this really what they want or need?

All too often, tools fail to fit user needs and lifestyles. This can be because many engineering teams don’t understand their customers’ real problems or because they build technology for technology’s sake, missing the opportunity to create something that’s genuinely useful and fine-tuned to what users need.

As tech proliferates in traditionally non-digitised industries like manufacturing, construction and retail, extra consideration needs to be put into what workers in these areas need, and how tech can truly complement their day-to-day tasks rather than be the focus of it. Lots of start-ups are pioneering technology for niche sectors and purposes, but ultimately, this tech needs to suit its audiences practically. Otherwise, it risks losing a great idea in an ill-fitting solution.

This is especially true in agtech; a booming industry in Australia. Tools and technologies for farmers need to be designed with the knowledge that they’re likely to be used outside, in often adverse weather conditions, and with a focus on the problems that farmers face rather than the next cool piece of tech that “us city folk” want to play with.

In designing AgriWebb, our mission wasn’t to create a traditional piece of consumer or business software. We knew the app had to fit farmers’ physical work lifestyles. So, we designed an app with high contrast rates, so users can view it outside in direct sunlight. We modelled the text to be larger than normal, to accommodate the visual needs of older users. We included bigger buttons, so farmers with larger hands, holding on to tools and goods, can navigate the software easily on the go. And we ensured the app was accessible offline because farmers rarely have reliable network connectivity when they’re out in the paddock. Listening is an ongoing process though, so we’re continuously talking to our customers to ensure the tool continues to be of ultimate use and serve their needs.

At the end of the day, we need to understand our customers if we want to solve their problems. Taking the user base’s demographics into account was a crucial step for us in farmers to put aside traditional non-tech practices and legacy software to find comfort in an entirely new approach to manage their farms.

Sleek tech that ends up slowing down builders, compromising safe work practices for warehouse workers, or taking farmers’ time away from their animals, for example, will likely see a great idea go to waste. And even if your target market isn’t a niche industry, businesses and customers across the board appreciate holistic technology that suits their specific needs, rather than tech that looks nice yet misses the mark or was built to scratch a developer’s technical itch.

Tech start-ups and businesses need to avoid getting lost in the glitz and glam of tech and ensure it physically and logistically complements their mission and audience. Sleek and slick design is important but should be underpinned by critical research, attention to detail, and usability.

Philip Chan, Chief Technical Officer, AgriWebb

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