Your UI (User Interface) matters and can make (or break) your implementation success and adoption, both internally and externally. Make it good.
I know, pretty is not the goal. The goal is to have something that works. Tools that accomplish their purpose reliably, quickly, ... (insert any adjective that make sense to you).
... as I write those lines, we are in 2023. It doesn't cost much to build something that looks nice to your users. There are intangible benefits to it.
It is part of your branding
The interface and experience your tool provides is how your users will remember you. It be the only interaction some of the users have with you. Make a good impression!
Make sure what you provide matches who you are, what your brand is about, what are your values, ...
Having a well-design interface, that looks clean and well thought of shows that you care about the details. You don't absolutely need it, but you have one nonetheless.
But make sure to not go too far. You can inject personality, humor, difference in your design, but even a great and unique interface can push users back. You have to find the right balance to be memorable but not annoying. Know your users, who they are, what they like and adjust accordingly. The more diverse they are, the more conservative you should be.
Personally, I have rejected using some services because of their image, even though their values and what they stand sounds appealing to me.
Everything you put in front of people represent your brand. Your interface even more than anything else.
Your organization looks modern
A lot of websites and tools out there still look like they are from the 1990's or early 2000, and not in a nice way. Not because they have been planned or designed like that, but either because they haven't got updated since then or because not much attention has ever been put into making them look good to start with.
On top of that, nobody wants to invest spending time in a tool that isn't maintained or could be obsolete. Don't give that as first impression.
Little thoughts and adjustments on your interface can make a big difference in perception.
Having a clean and easy to use interface can make complex processes look simple.
Employees/Users are happier
Just ask yourself, how many times have you personally decided to not perform a task (or reluctantly) simply the interface is not friendly, either visually or to use?
Banking website, government platforms, getting frustrated because of X and Y issue on a provider's platform, ... Avoid giving those feelings to your users.
My main gripe nowadays is with authentication requiring receiving an SMS. As I am often travelling, I rarely have the right phone number available to receive the login code... It is as secure as it can get as even I can't log into my account, but do you want to frustrate your users like that?
Depending on what they do, and how far you want to go in Saasifying your work, your employees and users will be happier and more willing to come back if your tools is appealing to them (especially if they are expected to spend their workday on it). And a happier user delivers better results.
Don't frustrate your users with hard to use interface. Happy people come back and get better results.
Here as well, perception is key. Users will also trust more the work done behind the scene if they trust what they can see.
Costs of making things look nice
The benefits listed above should be enough to let you consider having a nice(r) design for your tool. We are not talking about anything artsy, fancy or even unique here (unless you want to), but merely having a cohesive and appealing interface for your users.
Buy vs build
I will have a general article on that topic soon, in the meantime, here is where I stand on the user interface for your tool.
My suggestion here is to simply buy what you need. Building a nice design from scratch requires a lot of work and time spent on things that you don't need now. You can always change your interface later, having had feedback from a more or less successful first version.
Thankfully, there are a lot of options nowadays, you don't have to stare at a blank page.
Themes are ready made example interface. You select one and either try to integrate your tool within what they offer or you can take out what you need from them to make things look the way you want.
Having said that, the ideal would be for you to find a theme that matches both your style and where you can plug things in as is. They usually are conceived as one coherent unit. Taking parts of may make things look weird if not done properly.
UI Kits and Frameworks
UI Kits are like themes, but a bit more granular. Ususally they design components in isolation and offer them ready to use. For example, a button, a card, modal dialogs, ...
They are ready to be put into your site, the only thing left to do being making sure their style is coherent and matches the full platform.
I have only one recommendation here: tailwindui. It is what I have been using over the past few years as my design source. It offers components that are quick and convenient to use and self contained as based on the tailwind css framework. I am biased here as I really like working with it. It gives a nice starting point that is way more flexible than any other alternatives I encountered.
I know, I mention buy, don't build. And, to be honest, I haven't really had to work with UI designers yet as I have drawn up most of my UIs myself.
However, it may be worth making a distinction here (I may get into it more in a future article). I don't think you should go with a graphic designer that would design a full User Interface from scratch. But, if you or you team don't have any UX (User eXperience) or UI background; or if the person who has to code it requires very detailed descriptions of how things should behave, you should probably get some help with it.
It doesn't have to be very detailed, in most cases, just a quick drawing of how things should be layed out on the page, how components should behave based on other possible constraints.
The main goal with having a good user interface is to build a tool that your users enjoy getting back to. Yes, the outcomes your tool provides are the most important things, but how pleasant it is to use can make (or break) its success.
Don't overdo it
I may have made it seems that you need a perfect interface. Not quite, and I would advise against trying to. My goal here is to make you understand that the interface is important and convince you that you should spend some time making sure it is good enough.
And that's the key. Make it good enough. Good enough for you to be proud of it. Good enough for your users to feel happy about it. Good enough for it to provide the expected outcomes. You need to focus on the work itself, on the value you bring to your clients. Don't strive for perfect, make things work, test things and iterate on the whole user experience as you learn how to improve it.
The interface is important, but don't forget to deliver the expected outcomes too.