Building a World-Class User Experience in a Developer Platform

Eric Crane

Posted 7/25/2023

At Flatfile, our mission has always been to eliminate manual data work. We built the Flatfile Data Exchange Platform to solve complex data exchange challenges, but as we’ve discovered, providing capabilities is only half the battle. The other half is providing an exceptional user experience. We know that a developer platform should not only be powerful but also user-friendly, intuitive, and yes, delightful to use.

Developer platforms aren’t typically associated with great user experiences. They’re often seen as tools for the technical elite, filled with jargon and complex workflows that are incomprehensible to the average user. At Flatfile, we know that capabilities for developers are necessary but not sufficient.

Our developer tools help customers wrangle disparate data formats, standardize fields, and onboard data effortlessly. The potency of these tools is evident in how our customers can handle even the most complex data tasks with ease.

Empowering end users to solve data exchange challenges

At Flatfile, we’re providing a solution not just for the developers, but for every end-user who interacts with the data. This includes teachers, accountants, lawyers, plumbers, truck drivers, social workers, and more, all interacting with the Flatfile Data Exchange Platform. The user experience has far-reaching implications.

End-users should not have to wrestle with the complexity of the technology underlying the product. Instead, they should be able to focus on achieving their goal with the product. With this principle in mind, we designed the front-end components of our platform to be intuitive to non-experts. Further, though our customers can build their own UX on top of the Flatfile Platform, we generally see them leverage our customizable elements that have been tested by hundreds of thousands of users.

Why does the end user matter so much?

In a world where “AI” is capitalized more than it is not, you may wonder why it is so important to accommodate a non-technical end-user. The answer lies in the problem we solve: we are shepherding those users’ real data. Last month’s ACH transactions, a historical record of every patient seen, and full employee rosters; these are just three of hundreds of types of datasets exchanged in the data transactions we broker.

As a result, the type of collaboration the end-user has with Flatfile must be “zero-trust”. We want them to check our work and to engage in the process. Not only does this build trust, but it helps them lend their subject-matter expertise, which is lacking in most AI-driven solutions.

This allows us to not only provide guidance for a process that would otherwise be untouchable, but also gather insight on how we could perform data tasks better on their behalf. It’s a positive feedback loop in which the end customer has a better experience and we learn how to make it better for them - and all others like them - as we go.

UI examples

For example, you can attach errors, warnings, or comments (info) to specific records. These messages provide visual status and contextual information or alerts to users who interact with the record, helping them understand any issues or actions required.

Adding an Error using FlatfileRecord.addError()

Adding a Warning using FlatfileRecord.addWarning() 

Adding info using FlatfileRecord.addInfo()

The specific styling of each of these statuses are also fully customizable using Flatfile’s theme capabilities

Flatfile also makes it easy for end users to find, and optionally update data with built in options for “search”, “find and replace”, and “Replace empty values”, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. 

Building a world-class user experience in a developer platform is a tough but rewarding challenge. We believe that by prioritizing user experience alongside powerful capabilities, we can deliver products that not only solve complex data challenges but also delight our users.

Ultimately, the best measure of success for a developer tool is not the number of features it has but the success of the customers who use it. And by focusing on user experience, we're confident that we can continue to drive customer success at Flatfile.

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