An article on Wallstreet Online reports on a recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting on the importance of user interface design on enterprise purchase decisions. The study found that 82 percent of those who make purchase decisions consider an enterprise software application's user interface a determining factor when deciding to replace their enterprise software and 90 percent indicated the user interface as a priority when purchasing additional new software. This corroborates recent conversations I've had with people in large enterprises as well. I think this indicates two things. First, that user interface design is becoming much more important and we're starting to see actual numeric validation of it.
I would argue that users have seen the importance of good user interface design for a long time and this has resulted in us seeing better and better designed products for the consumer market. Remember that the user and the purchase decision-maker are typically one and the same in the consumer market. However, that is not typically the case in the enterprise market where users are not normally the decision-makers too. It has therefore taken longer for the importance of good design to be realized by enterprise decision-makers. However, this study and recent experiences I've had indicate that the importance of good UI design is now not only realized by enterprise purchase decision-makers but it is also seen as critical to them in making their decisions.
The substantive findings here are important but also the fact that they exist at all. Studies like this that examine the importance of design to business have in the past been all too few. We need more applied research like this investigating and quantifying the business importance of design.