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Visma Employee – building an app for everyone

How do you design an app for everyone?

The Visma Employee app

That is the big question for Visma Employee. “Everyone” might be an exaggeration, but only just so: the Employee app is for anyone who’s employed and might be sick, want a vacation or get a payslip, which is basically anyone employed by a company.

In our case, the answer has been to build the app one step at a time, with research and testing happening continuously.

Printscreen from Visma Employee app

The first version of the app was released in 2014, with viewing payslips as the only feature. That might seem like a simple thing to do: just stick a PDF in there, and you’re basically done. But after some quick research we found that many people don’t understand and don’t care about many of the items on their payslip – in fact, people mostly care about when they will get paid, how much and how many vacation days they have. Also, reading a PDF in A4 format on a mobile screen is a fairly terrible experience, so we wanted to have something better.

The team created a way to send payslip information in a structured way, which meant that we could present the information in a better way, including putting more emphasis on payment date and amount to be paid out, as well as allowing drill down for the people who want to see all the details about preliminary tax deductions year to date, or whatever it might be.

Payslip function in Visma Employee app

Since then, the app has grown step by step, with support for applying for vacation, registering sick leave, viewing expenses and a few more things, and the team is busy with building a new feature for sending travel expenses while you travel. (Which, since that’s when you have travel expenses, has been a feature lots of people have asked for.)

This has been the rough model for how we have built the app: a bit of research, design in the form of wireframes or hi-fi design, sometimes prototypes, implementing and releasing once we have something meaningful to release, even if it’s just part of what we plan to build.

Some of the research involved going to the central station and ask people to test the app in exchange for a cup of coffee

Some of the research involved going to the central station and ask people to test the app in exchange for a cup of coffee.

Working this way has been really liberating. For instance, the first version of the vacation registration didn’t even allow drill-down to view the details, and similarly, editing and deleting was added in yet another release. We have done about 15 releases or about one every 2 months, and knowing that features don’t need to be perfect in the first release has taken a lot of the pressure off, while we still have had a longer-term plan to follow.

The team is distributed, with most of the developers in Vilnius, some people in Oslo and Fredrikstad in Norway, and me (Johan) in Malmö, Sweden. Being spread out geographically has sometimes been a challenge, but the team has tolerated under-defined designs, graphical changes in the name of corporate brand changes and waffling around with icons as well as handling all the technical bits with aplomb.

Here are links to the App and Play Store if you want to take a look:

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