Kofi is the co-founder of Lane, a workplace experience platform that uses technology to make every workplace into a place that works.
Over the past three decades, companies such as Apple and Google have transformed the face of software. Instead of struggling with a complex, technical interface, today’s customers — or end users — enjoy an intuitive and seamless experience. We tap, we scroll and it all more or less makes sense.
But there’s another kind of user I believe we tend to forget, and for this lesser-known group, software has remained pretty complicated. I’m talking, of course, about the admin user. This is the person who is tasked with delivering a great customer experience in the first place. Whether they’re operating a marketing customer relationship management tool, content management system or e-commerce solution, administrators tend to have a much less user-friendly experience than their end user counterparts, so they need to invest a lot of time and energy before they can use these tools properly.
The reason for this discrepancy seems obvious enough: If delivering value to customers is the goal, then the customer interface — or the front end, as it’s often called — has to be as intuitive and enjoyable as possible. The back end, by contrast, is simply the software tech creators use to supply that customer experience, and they shouldn’t be bothered if it matches the cubicles and corporate complexities admins are used to.
But there’s an error in this line of thinking. Although delivering customer value is the correct goal, optimizing for the end user experience at the expense of the admin experience isn’t the best way to get there. On the contrary, neglecting the admin experience actively undermines customer value, and I believe it does so in two main ways:
1. Barriers And Bottlenecks
Let’s say an admin wants to improve the end user experience for their customer by updating their website, for example. In that case, they’d have to be highly trained with the software in question or know how to code. For most people, this is a high barrier to entry.
The alternative isn’t much better. If you aren’t able to learn code or invest the time to be trained on a piece of complex enterprise technology, then you are forever dependent on programmers for help, whether it’s your own technical team or an external firm. This means that every time you want to improve the digital experience for your customers, you face substantial timelines, which keeps the customer waiting.
2. Context Loss
Whenever you hand off the responsibility of improving your customer’s experience to someone else, you start a game of telephone. Even if you explain your needs in detail, it will frequently come back not quite as you envisioned it. This means further rounds of revisions or an inferior result.
In short, whether it’s your own technical team or a third-party development firm, relying on those who do not directly interact with your customer translates to a loss of context.
Put differently, no one knows the customer better than those on the front lines — the ones who manage the websites, the content and the shopping experience. Who better, therefore, to define and refine the customer experience?
No Code, No Problem
Hence the arrival of no-code solutions like Squarespace (for building a website), Shopify (for setting up e-commerce) and Mailchimp (for marketing emails). My company is another example of a no-code solution: We offer a web builder for commercial property managers. Through this experience, I’ve seen that these technologies can help empower nontechnical individuals to improve the customer experience affordably and effectively.
I’m not the only one saying so. In its list of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020, research and advisory firm Gartner put “democratization of technology” — the need to provide people with access to technical expertise without extensive and costly training — toward the top. And according to another Gartner report, by 2024, 65% of application development by organizations will be completed via no-code or low-code platforms to satisfy an increasing demand for better customer experiences.
To get started on finding and implementing a no-code solution for your business, I suggest the following:
• Test drive it. User experience is what matters here, so once you find a few solutions that look promising, don’t just read through marketing materials and sales decks before you buy. Get a product demo, and ideally see if you can test drive the product yourself. Even better: Get your admins to try it out because they’re the ones who’ll be using it.
• Keep adoption in mind: The easier the solution is to use, the more likely your team will be to take to it. With that in mind, look for straightforward functionality like drag-and-drop builders and visual editors. Find out how long it’ll take to train your team on the software, whether the vendor has adoption strategies and collateral, and how much troubleshooting would be needed on an ongoing basis.
• Remember that configurability is king. Good back-end software is user-friendly across a variety of edge cases, especially those relevant to your business. Each business is unique, and you need a solution that can be tailored to meet your customer’s precise needs.
The New Middle
The time has come to shift our understanding away from the paradigm that there are just two main groups in any software experience — back-end coders and front-end users — and toward the reality that, increasingly, there are three: coders, end users and admins in the middle. These are the ones defining and driving the customer experience. By humanizing back-end technologies, we can give this group the tools they need to succeed.