Thoughts on Usability

    By | Small Business

    I am still learning.

    ~ Michelangelo

    I am halfway through a master’s degree at Kent State University in User Experience Design. My coursework this semester is on usability, and I’m now pulling out my old copy of Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug and revisiting classic usability articles from Jakob Nielsen. Since usability has long been a focus and professional interest of mine, and because the subject doesn’t get enough attention, I’m getting on my soapbox. You’ve been warned.

    Usability testing is often reactive

    For the sake of context, I was first introduced to usability when working in the ecommerce space. One site was struggling following a redesign and revenues were taking a hit. Iterative user testing and design fixes eventually healed the revenue problem. I have since been involved in web-based software projects and lots of web development projects, from small business to enterprise in scope. And I saw the same trend; leadership doesn’t commit to usability testing until after problems arise.

    Further, revenue problems are more likely to raise awareness about usability issues than expense problems. One organization I know of supports very large customer service and training teams, because the software they sell is confusing. You’d think a modest investment in usability testing and development could provide efficiencies in service and training labor, particularly as the company grows.

    In short, it’s baffling that usability testing is not always incorporated proactively into design and development project schedules. Steve Krug, Jakob Nielsen and others have advocated for years that you can effectively test designs with paper prototypes and as few as three testers. And, solutions like usertesting.com and usabilityhub.com provide even more efficiency, particularly to the recruitment process.

    Stand up for usability

    Why don’t more organizations embrace usability testing? It should be not be a question of budget — it probably costs less than having 10 people sit in a room and argue about page layout. From what I’ve seen, the problem is more related to habit. Organizations have their way of doing things and that way doesn’t change unless someone forces it. And that means, folks, we need to stand up for usability.

    Does your organization get user feedback on digital assets either before, during or after development? I’d love to hear your usability success stories!

    This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Thoughts on Usability

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