Why Are Staffing Websites and Software Applications So Poorly Designed?

A couple of months ago, David Gee wrote an excellent post titled “Why Are Applicant Tracking Systems So Bad?” on the Staffing Talk blog. In the post, he make several great points about the poor design and usability of most ATS systems out there. He’s spot on with his comments specific to the poor design and outdated layouts still being followed by most ATSs. I wanted to tell him that in a simple comment on his blog, but I had much more to say about the topic.

For some reason, when it comes to software in the staffing industry, design and usability have seemingly been devalued. And it’s not just with ATSs. Website and software design/usability in this industry has a bad reputation as a whole. Why is this the case when software products in many other industries are all about front end design? In some cases, many companies even tout their front end design as the main reason for their user adoption and even acquisition.

So what’s going on in our industry?

In the last few months I’ve had conversations with several staffing firms and software companies in the staffing industry that, to put it mildly, have terrible front end interfaces. These companies run the spectrum from delivering large enterprise applications, to being large staffing firms, to some brand new start ups. When I say terrible, I mean really, really terrible. To be honest, I’m not sure how some of them are even considered usable. After seeing so many bad front end designs I had to start asking why.

When I asked representatives from these companies why their front design was so poor they all said basically the exact same thing.

Well, we’ve just focused on making the backend work. We’ll make it look pretty later. That’s the easy part.

When it comes to designing software or a website, this mindset is completely backwards, for so many reasons.

Good front end design….

  • …is not easy. It’s actually very difficult and is not something you do later, as an after thought. It takes time, problem solving and lots of iteration. Some of the most complex and thought out product/website designs we’ve done look incredibly simple. However, they only look simple because of all the thought and time put into the design process upfront.
  • …is where you start, not get to later. The more backend features you build, the more difficult it is to improve the front end. Every feature comes with cost. A cost in terms of building, training, support and maintenance. Building more and more features without putting time and thought into your front end design simply leaves you with years of technical and usability debt. It eventually gets to the point where redoing the front end becomes more difficult than redoing your entire product. Trust me. I’ve been in this situation and learned from making these exact mistakes. When you’re here, the chances of your company investing the time and money required to make a new front end are slim to none.
  • …saves you money and increases your revenue. Good front end design makes your product more intuitive and user friendly. The more intuitive and user friendly it is, the happier your users are. The happier your users are, the more users you get and retain. Moreover, the better and more intuitive your front end is, the less upfront training and ongoing support costs you’ll have.

To be clear, front end design is not simply about colors, styles and pictures. A well designed website or application is also about layout and usability. In other words, UI and UX are both important.

  • UI stands for User Interface (you may have heard it called GUI – Graphical User Interface). This is about the styles, colors, element shapes, and overall look.
  • UX stands for User Experience. This isn’t about the color or shape of a button, this is about where the button goes on the page, why it goes there and whether it should be there, or even be a button at all. This is the most critical component to good front end design and is the hardest to get right.

When it comes to front end design, more time should be invested in getting the UX correct than any other part of the application. It’s easy to argue that if the backend of your application doesn’t work then there’s no point to it. However, if people can’t figure out how to use your application, it’s just as pointless.

We’ve had the opportunity to deliver several websites and mobile websites to companies in the staffing industry and have also consulted and designed software for many software companies in the staffing industry. We love nothing more than demonstrating the value and importance of good front end design. It’s been an amazing opportunity to help educate these companies on the practice and value of good UI/UX. Hopefully it will contribute to a new trend of companies in the industry spending more time creating better front end designs for their websites and software.

In the next couple of weeks we’ll post more on this topic and cover the value of good design, as well as give you some tips on how to improve your website or software application’s UI and UX. In the meantime, if you want to discuss redesigning the front end of your software or website get in touch with us.



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