User Experience Basics for a Visitor Check-In System

Companies invest in visitor management software to make things easier in the reception area. A streamlined, automated system speeds things up for visitors, front desk staff, and the employees hosting the visitors.

But it’s not enough to remove paperwork and hands-on tasks from the reception process in favor of a digital system. That digital system has to be pleasant to use, or it could hurt your brand — or simply not get used at all.

Creating a user-focused visitor management system is a great way to show your company has a core commitment to the customer’s needs and experiences.

Whether you’re using an cloud-based software solution or designing a custom visitor management system for your company, your system should meet certain usability standards.

Establishing Your Usability Goals

“Usability” may mean something different for every company, even when it comes to visitor management systems.

For companies with enhanced security concerns, the top usability priority may be making sure visitors don’t make any mistakes or skip any steps as they rush through. For companies with a high volume of visitors, the top usability priority might be that check-in is as quick and simple as possible.

It’s OK to have more than one goal, but prioritize them in order of importance. This will help gauge just how usable your system is.

Establishing Testing and Feedback Systems

As the website Usability First explains in its Intro to User-Centered Design, “even the most insightful designer can only create a highly-usable system through a process that involves getting information from people who actually use the system.”

That’s right: It’s not enough to run tests with people who are “pretending” to be visitors. Actual visitor must use the system to give you the usability insight you need.

At most companies, the most frequent users are the visitors themselves. These visitors may range from the people making food deliveries to VIP corporate guests.

The foundation of every visitor management system is an understanding of who visits and why. Refer to your list of visit types (for more on how to create your list, read our entire post on the topic) and make sure you’ve covered each one.

You also need to run tests with the front desk staff and employees who will be using the system to check visitors in. Make sure they try to check in each type.

Testing is as simple as asking visitors and staff to use the beta version of your system and observing what happens when they do. Note how long it takes them on each screen and whether or not they have to stop. Do they get frustrated? Do they have to backtrack or start over? Overall, are the goals of the visitor management system being accomplished?

MeasuringU suggests using a chart to keep track of which users have reported which problems, and assigning each problem a severity level.

If you’re ready to start testing, our usability testing chart is a great place to start. Download it now: A Usability Testing Chart for Your Visitor Management System

The system should be simple enough that users can use it by themselves on the first try.

A Few Usability Elements to Test

Although the definition of usability may vary a bit with goals and visitor types, there are still a few best practices you should observe to make your system as user-centered as possible.

Here a few that we adhere to at The Receptionist. And they’re not just for graphic designers or programmers: They’re for anyone working within our system’s drag-and-drop interface to create their visitor check-in screens.

Legibility

Users should be able to read their options as quickly as possible. Ideally, they’ll spend just a few moments per screen before taking action.

Stick with clean fonts and styles, and make sure text is big enough for your visitors to easily read. Remember that what’s legible to one person may not be to another, and what may be perfectly legible on a large monitor will not necessarily look or feel the same when the system is used on a tablet.

Part of legibility is making sure to use as few words as possible to get your point across. Using fewer words frees up space on the screen and lets users navigate their options more quickly.

Simplicity

There shouldn’t be anything on any page of your visitor check-in software that distracts the user from their goal.

The options for any given screen should be as limited as possible to reduce user reading time and provide for a nice, clean layout. For example, 5 or so buttons per page is a good place to start.

If you find you’re struggling to limit the number of options at any point, consider that the real problem might lie with the way you organized your visitor processes.

The Receptionist allows you to create a different process for each visitor type for just this reason: it cuts down on unnecessary steps for everyone.

Branding

Although the internal pages of your visitor management software should generally be as simple as possible, adding a few distinctive branding elements can be a nice way to give visitors a sense of place. Branding also distinguishes your system as your own and is far from generic.

Any out-of-the-box solution should give you the ability to add your company branding to the welcome screen and to visitor badges. The Receptionist also lets you modify your welcome screen with background images and other text and color styles.

Structure

As you lay out your pages, it may help to keep in mind how your users’ eyes tend to move across the screen.

Nick Babich of UX Planet explains that users’ eyes typically move across pages in an F-shaped pattern: first, they scan the headline, then scan vertically down looking for points of interest, then continue to read horizontally again as they find what interests them. This whole process happens in a moment.

People are always going to try to get through a page as quickly as they can, especially with a visitor management system (after all, they have a meeting to get to, or a delivery to make). Understand that your users will be scanning and make sure your information is prioritized accordingly.

Aesthetics

The Usabilla blog post points out that better aesthetics can generally lead to a better experience. The blog cites “Emotional Design” author Don Norman and notes that when people are using what they consider to be an attractive product, it can “trigger our creativity and ultimately expand our mental processes, making problem-solving easier, which again makes us more tolerant of minor difficulties.”

Of course, simplicity and legibility all factor into aesthetics. But if you can create a system that people enjoy using because it looks great, that just may help them reach their goals more quickly.

When your app looks great, your users just might reach their goals more quickly. Click To Tweet

Error Tolerance

If a user tries to skip a step or fills out information incorrectly, they should be greeted with a thoughtful, helpful message that will point them in the right direction.

Your software should let your employees designate which fields, forms, and actions are required by visitors and which are optional.

Users should also be able to easily and quickly go back and fix any potential mistakes.

Ready to start testing? Download our bonus resource: A Usability Testing Chart for Your Visitor Management System

If you’re ready to try a visitor management system that’s beautifully designed, completely customizeable, and has a team dedicated to supporting you, try The Receptionist for iPad. Start your 14-day free trial.

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