One of the key benefits of low-code citizen development platforms like QuickBase is that application administrators can make substantive changes quickly to respond to changing business conditions or improve the user's experience. However, committing to the practice of continuous improvement does take a bit of discipline — and some best practices.
As the citizen development movement continues its rapid rise, we thought we'd ask members of our QuickBase Heroes community for their best practices for keeping QuickBase applications fresh. More than 60 of them weighed in, with advice that ranged from the theoretical to the tactical.
We boiled down those responses into these 5 key pieces of advice:
“It's important to review application usage on a regular basis to make sure you're meeting your users' needs,” says Perla Diaz of Southwest Airlines.
How many users accessed your apps last month? How many fields are devoid of data? Are there checkboxes that never seem to get checked? All of these questions (and many, many more) can be answered with tools built into QuickBase. Whether you're regularly checking relationship diagrams and generating reports to show recent changes to tables and records as suggested by Beth Hilleke of Vision Software Solutions or you're deploying a comprehensive realm administration application that tracks key metrics across multiple active applications, as suggested by Erich Wehrmann of Harder Mechanical, you have many tools at your disposal for quickly assessing the health of one or all of the applications you manage.
Several app administrators suggested scheduling regular health checks to clear out unused form fields, notifications, relationships, and other things that don't add to the user's overall experience. Tina Hand of Complete Data Systems schedules a “check-up day” once a month, in which she reviews all applications and plans maintenance where necessary.
Even the best QuickBase apps are always a work in progress, of course. Several of our QuickBase Heroes suggested adopting a plan of continuous improvement. Paul Lanterman of OMS Photo suggests frequently updating the look and feel of forms and reports to deliver increasingly visually interesting interfaces. Eric Pilon of Southwest Airlines suggests revisiting form fields and assessing whether they need to remain in the app, or if they have become outdated.
Josh Miller from FedEx Office says app administrators need to be ready to not only improve their apps, but to actually start over from scratch when necessary. “I think you need to commit to improving one thing each month, and you need to be OK with blowing something up and building over it,” he says.
Just because your app works the way you think it should doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Your end users might not be happy with it, and even worse — they might not even tell you something isn't working! Several QuickBase Heroes suggested creating feedback mechanisms for end users. Whether you're using regular surveys, meetings with end users, or in-app communications (via description fields, automated notifications, or other features), make it easy for users to show you what is working and what isn't.
Lee Gilmore of Portland General Electric suggests using new hires to your organization as a sounding board. “Often that fresh set of eyes will provide insights to redundancies, gaps and other perspectives that will help improve your process and app,” he says.
Even better, users can be a source of innovative new ideas, according to Ryan Kjesbo-Johnson of ServeMinnesota Action Network. “I have gotten some of my most innovative ideas from simply listening to problems people were having with our systems, and thinking through solutions,” he says. “Start with the most novice user of your system and work your way up. Look for similar trends in user workarounds, often there is a solution that will save them time and your organization money.”
We already shared the importance of revisiting apps to clear out unnecessary fields or actions. But what about improving what's working? Several rock star administrators suggested adding small tweaks to existing apps to keep the experience fresh for users. Even something as small as changing the colors of colorized rows or cells, or adding a new report to a homepage, sends a signal to users that you're invested in continuous improvement.
Erik Romero from Cannabase suggests periodically updating content or terminology to keep pace with process changes in the organization, while Taylor Temple of Total Merchant Services recommends seeking out new ways to streamline QuickBase actions by tweaking or improving relationships between tables.
“Sometimes change is feared, but don't be afraid to make changes to keep users excited and on their toes,” says Ashlee Shedd of National Tax Credit.
The product teams at QuickBase are constantly working to add or improve features that drive value to app builders and users. Many of our QuickBase Heroes said that staying on top of the latest QuickBase announcements might open the door to real areas of improvement in your existing applications. Our monthly release notes are a great way to stay up to date on new features and enhancements that may provide value to your users.
Of course, if your app is mission critical or supports a high volume of users, you'll need to be careful how you roll out new features. “Introduce new features (on a limited scale) in apps with lots of users. The additional visibility prompts users to think of new ways to improve less central or more customized apps and processes,” says Elise Faustino of Wingstop Restaurants.
Armed with these practices and disciplines, you'll be on your way to improving your end users' experience and driving even better results from your QuickBase apps. Got any other tips? Let us hear it in the comments section of the social share bar to the left, and be sure to subscribe for weekly blog updates, below.