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Potential of Design in the SAP World

Robin van Otterdijk, 26 April 2023

Sometimes people ask me; how did you end up in the SAP world as a designer? SAP has its components and guidelines. We can make everything we want with those right?

Is this true?

There is certainly an element of truth. The SAP guidelines and components make sense and will guide most teams to quickly build an app. However, exactly that can also be a pitfall. The entire Design System of SAP aims to build apps using the same parts. Whether it will be used by a transport company or as an E-commerce platform that could have completely different needs. This creates a one-dimensional view of (UX) Design, apps, and what is possible with them.

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Think of it as Lego bricks: You can quickly make something that looks like a car. If you put a lot of time into it, you can even make something that looks like a sports car. But it will never come close to becoming a real sports car. Just like building apps using SAP Components can get you a simple app. If you spend a lot of time even a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it will never work as well as when the app is designed from the ground up with one purpose and the target audience in mind.


Almost all popular apps have once started to replace something, or have had, in the course of their existence, competition from apps with similar functionality. Think of Internet Explorer vs Chrome, Napster vs Spotify, or Instagram vs TikTok. While most of the time both apps have pro’s and con’s, usually the one with the best user experience will succeed in the long run. This effect ensures that apps continuously develop to stay ahead of the competition, with the user as the big winner.

With business apps, this effect takes a lot longer. The user cannot (always) choose which apps to use to do their work. This results in less competition and allows apps with poor usability to survive longer. Creating an increasing gap in user experience between the apps people use at home and the apps they use at work.


SAP built this gigantic ecosystem over the years. Full of techniques that can process data and transactions quickly and securely like no other. This ensures a fantastic foundation for building apps. Having the power of SAP behind you is one big playground for designers. You just have to focus on how you want to present all this information to the user.

When you make apps that people (have to) work with every day, they deserve every bit of convenience you can give them. With a well-thought-out design that matches the purpose and the target group, you have the best of both worlds.

Fortunately, design is so much more than just choosing the right components and following guidelines.

Robin van Otterdijk

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