Box updates storage app with iOS 8 widget and more

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Design-led thinking makes its way into Box

Cloud sync-and-share company Box thinks it's pretty much nailed down its sales pitch to the enterprise: Keep all your data accessible to everybody on every device, with all the regulatory compliance needs of the modern enterprise. 

Now comes what may be the harder part: Getting people to want to use the dang thing. Box isn't exactly struggling to find customers -- GE is a major client and will eventually have 300,000 users on the platform. But rival Dropbox is still winning the war of public perception, thanks in no small part to its commitment to simple, clean, user-friendly design.

Today, though, the wind begins to change, as Box shows off its own commitment to design with the release of a new version of its iPhone and iPad app and a simplified web experience, all with an eye toward making it easier and generally more pleasant for users to access their cloud content. The easier it is to get at that content, the more likely users are going to stick with the whole cloud transformation thing.

"The ability to drive change in companies takes huge change in design," said Chris Yeh, senior vice president of Product and Platform at Box. 

In practice, those changes come in the form of a Favorites list that lets you bookmark important content across the newly enhanced Box website and the upgraded Box for iPhone/iPad app. On the Apple iOS side, a new widget lets you access your Favorites on the fly from the iPhone or iPad's notification center, reducing friction when getting to important files.

That same widget also lets you access common functionalities, like starting a new note in the cloud or a camera shortcut that lets you take a photo and immediately upload it to Box. Yeh said the photo upload feature was requested by enterprise customers in industries where workers out in the field have to send photos for things like estimates or appraisals back to home base,  It also supports Apple's Touch ID, which is potentially a useful extra layer of security, assuming you're not worried about the likes of, say, police warrants.

On the enterprise side, Box enabled whitelisting, which lets administrators define trusted domains for collaboration. This means that users can't accidentally, or accidentally on purpose, invite any yahoo with a Yahoo Mail account to view a sensitive document that has to stay between you and a client. Box also introduced  reports that let admins see where and with whom data is being shared.

Also of note in this new Box release is a Facebook-style notification center to alert users when files change or a new comment is added. It's not a huge deal, but Yeh said it's a forward-looking feature that points the way to Box becoming a more fleshed-out enterprise social network competitor to Microsoft Yammer or Salesforce Chatter.

Yeh said staying enterprise-friendly while still building out quick, easy features is a balancing act that requires constant consideration. Box just hired industry insider Ethan Batraski, whose been involved in user experience for a dozen years, as vice president of product design to help keep all the balls in the air. Box also continues to grow out both sides of its business ahead of its IPO, which is still slated between now and the release of Ghostbusters III

"If we don't get UX right, we'll never succeed," Yeh says. 

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