Workday's updated mobile app takes design cues from iOS, Android

Workday customers running iOS can upgrade now, but Android users will have to wait until the middle of next year

The charts and graphs in the dashboard view have been streamlined and no longer have beveled edges.

The charts and graphs in the dashboard view have been streamlined and no longer have beveled edges.

The minimalist look of flat design has been incorporated into Workday's refreshed mobile app for the company's cloud-based HCM (human capital management) and financial software.

Workday took its design cues from consumer technology, especially from Apple and Google's mobile OSes, said Joe Korngiebel, vice president of user experience. Those companies, along with Microsoft, have emphasized streamlined mobile designs that eliminate beveled edges, shadows and other design elements that prevent people from quickly accessing information. By comparison, flat design aims to quickly convey relevant data through the use of simple icons, card-like blocks of information and typography.

"Flat design brought everything back to the essence of simplicity. It's just a home icon. It's just a simple bit of text. There's not a lot of shadows or disruptions in the imagery to confuse the user," said Korngiebel.

A simplified navigation structure is part of the flat design. Instead of having to navigate through menus to return to the home screen, users can press a home button.

"The navigation is as simple as 'take me home and I'll jump into my next application,' just like you would in iOS," said Korngiebel.

The update uses full-bleed images, or images that extend to the screen's edge. For example, a customer profile screen displayed on an iPad now features a colored background that fills the screen. The customer's contact and background information is displayed in a single column centered in the middle of the screen on top of the background. In the previous version, this information was compartmentalized and spread out over the screen. Dashboard function incorporates full-bleed images as a background as well. The charts displayed on the dashboard have also received a makeover that nixed their beveled edges and background color in the header field.

Application customization, a feature found in mobile OSes like Apple's iOS and Google's Android, is now available for Workday mobile customers. They can choose background colors, rearrange the order of icons on the home screen and select what icons appear on the home screen. Allowing users to personalize the application makes them want to use the software, Korngiebel said. Not offering customization would have the opposite effect, he said.

"You end up with users who don't want to use your software if you force them to use something that big business is pushing on them," he said.

With more people using tablets and smartphones for work tasks, robust mobile applications have become increasingly important to software vendors. Workday, for example, has seen a 400 percent increase in transaction volume coming from mobile devices over the past year. Customers want mobile software that offers all the functionality of a desktop application, Korngiebel said.

"We're moving toward a situation where it's not just mobile first. It's mobile only," he said.

Workday is providing customers with a "runway" to determine the best time to roll out the update. Businesses that aren't using the updated application by the middle of next year will be automatically upgraded, said Korngiebel. The update is available now for iOS users. Android users will be able to access the software in the middle of next year with Workday 24, the vendor's next large software update.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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IDG News Service
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