No Code: A focus on User Centered Design

Posted: 26 March 2021
By: Jackson Liu

Having been to countless industry conferences and events all over the world, telling someone that you work at Neota Logic will always be the best conversation starter. Neota has been around for so long and while the name is recognizable, the first question I always get is: ‘What exactly does the Neota Logic platform do?’

Now, I am not going to lie.

This blog will mention Neota Logic’s technology offering as a no-code platform. However, it won’t include any mentions of conventional legal technology descriptors such as ‘creating efficiencies’, ‘more for less’, ‘cost v profit centers.’

Instead, I’ll speak to the platform from a User Centered Design (UCD) lens – that is, the focus on the actual user of the tool, and a deep empathy with their experience.

The Interaction Design Foundation defines UCD as ‘an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase…..to create highly usable and accessible products for them.

In my opinion, there is nothing more important than utilizing UCD concepts when developing a no code platform roadmap. But it’s not easy – how do you focus on UCD when the platform is supposed to be used by everybody?!

Let me take you through the Neota platform through this lens.

 

The important bits

Neota’s approach to citizen app development is that users are able to incorporate the following 4 pillars into single solutions:

  • BPMN-aligned intelligent workflow;
  • Document automation;
  • Expertise automation; and
  • Data management

Below is a basic 2D visual of how I think everything fits together:

This is essential to realizing the value of a no-code platform as a user.

For example, how do you build workflow solution that doesn’t have some aspect of logic creation, document automation and the most importantly – data management capabilities?

As a user, why pay for a separate document automation tool when you can get the same functionalities in the one platform?

Why use a third party database to store and visualize user and workflow solution data?

 

Workflow Automation:

The ability to build workflow automation solutions, remains in my opinion, the single most valuable feature of the platform.

Workflow automation stands out for a number of reasons – none more important than if we have the user experience lens in mind.

At Neota, we approach this by utilizing Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) standard visual conventions into a drag and drop interface. Users of the Neota Logic platform can create automated workflows to manage the execution and completion of business processes such as:

  • Document creation that requires conditional approval routing;
  • Document execution that requires multi-stage negotiation and review;
  • Case management and matter intake that requires assignment, tracking and review;
  • Central tasks allocation such as employee onboarding or IT Support requests.

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) posed the following question to its members this year (but only to those who plan to adopt new technologies in the corporate legal department):

Specifically, what legal technology are you looking to invest more in the next 2 months?

The five highest responses were specific workflow solutions (i.e. contract management). If that doesn’t paint a clear user demand for the legaltech industry, I don’t know what will!

 

Highlight

Going the one step further, the Neota platform also has a ‘Whiteboard Mode’ which allows a subject matter expert to define how the intended process should flow before any application building has started. They can do this with no Neota Logic training.

What this means from a practical perspective is that you can ask stakeholder(s) familiar with the business goals and processes to define the workflow in the Whiteboard and when completed, can pass this onto a Neota Logic trained business user to complete the actual build. With content and knowledge being the biggest barrier to building any platform solution, this take the tools right to the content person!

 

NO-CODE AND DESIGN

In order for everyone to make software, it needs to be easy to make software. In order to equip non-techies with the tools to build digitally, the platform needs to be designed exceptionally. An enormous amount of thought needs to go into the interface and experience: what does the platform look like? Is it intuitive? How do we reduce the learning curve?

A great no-code tool is an endless balancing act between design and functionality. Every new feature is questioned relentlessly about whether it will add to much ‘code’ to the mix, and raise that difficulty bar too high.

Our Workflow designer is the paramount example of this concept.

The other is our Product and Building Blocks framework.

 

The blank canvas dilemma

No code platforms, like with most platform solutions have what I refer to as the blank canvas dilemma. The catch-22 that while everyone wants the tools to be creators, no one wants to start from ground zero – no matter how good or easy the actual technology is to use.

Microsoft addresses this with Powerpoint Templates – ‘a pattern or blueprint of a slide…[templates] can contain layouts, theme colors, fonts, effects styles and even content.’

The building industry has something similar – the Modular Construction method. A form of prefabricated construction methodology that sources pre-built components (made offsite) which are then transported to the construction site to be assembled. In essence, it’s a lean technique applied to the construction industry!

To solve this problem and to enhance the platform’s usability, all no-code platforms should take a leaf out of the construction industry. Here at Neota, we’ve introduced our Products and Modular Building Block concepts to the tool suite!

There are three key concepts:

Products and Product Templates are pretty self-explanatory. Fully built, runnable digital solutions which users can leverage to configure themselves.

Modular Building Blocks are an entirely different beast and I believe will change the no-code landscape.

These are are fully built, meaningful, ‘functionality specific’ solutions which through simple no-code ‘plug-in and play’ can be connected to any solutions built on the platform. Building blocks include functions like third-party integrations into DocuSign and Box, negotiation capabilities and approval workflows.

Thank-you for coming on this no-code journey with me over the past three months. No code platforms truly open a world of digital possibilities to everyone and when done correctly, adds tremendous value to any organization.

 

See you next time!

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Written by: Jackson Liu