Friday, November 23, 2007

Why 'Usability' is so important?

We are living in a virtual world where there are millions of websites offering different kinds of applications / products & information services featuring business, education, entertainment, community sites & much more than one can think of. These several websites offering almost same kinds of services, etc. are making it more difficult to survive in such a complex business scenario.

Being very competitive market, one needs a solid product / services strategy & business model. But, one also needs good "usability" strategies & practices to make his/her website better than others, to make users keep coming back to the website; as there are several other sites which offers almost same kind of content / services.

Several studies & research of user behavior have clearly shown that users are impatient & have really low level of tolerance for difficult or sluggish websites, which takes more than required time. Being with such intolerant approaches, users are not willing to come back to sites which have very poor usability features. If they don't get what they want quickly, they will stop coming to your website in the future.

These bad usability elements of a website leads to time wastage, productivity losses, frustrated user base who are hardly willing to come back to this "non-usable" website; which automatically leads to different kinds of losses being an unsuccessful web application that fails to attract users or to serve the target audience of the website or application.

As against this, websites or application which makes a users life easy by allowing him to get what he wants in minimum clicks or in a hassle free way, developed using good usability strategies & practices always makes a user happy & attracts him to the website or to use the application. This loyalty increases the value of the website or the application, which gives good returns being a valuable website or application for its loyal users. Usage of Usability methods in the website or application development helps you to develop the best of the breed 'usable' application.

Usability is an "investment". You should invest into Usability irrespective of whether it is a new website development or a revamp of an existing website, as the money invested in Usability always pays off, as it saves lot of learning time for your target user base as your application is developed keeping the end-user at the core of all the development & have "usability" to develop the application at its best.

For example, IBM estimates that every dollar spent on the Usability will return $ 10 to $ 100.

Isn't it worth investing in Usability, which wins users, their satisfaction by making you "out-of-the-crowd" website with loyal customer base / users as well as business goals also?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What's User-Centered Design?

"User Centered Design" (UCD) is an approach used in the project, where the end-user or target audience is at the center of the design & development of an application or product development.

This approach makes sure that all the design & development is done based on the end-user inputs, their requirement & feedbacks taken into account while researching, using either of the popular user-centered design methods ; to make sure that the application-in-the-make meets all or maximum possible expectations of the end-user from the respective product / application intended at the specific target user group.

ISO 13407:1999 - a section for Human-centered design processes for interactive systems, specifies the steps for an ideal UCD process which actually begins at the very early stage of the project / product design & development. This stages are inter-dependent & their usage in the actual practice varies based on the project it applies to, as well as the amount of efforts that has been put in.

These steps can be briefed as follows:
  • Understand and specify the context of use

  • Specify the user and organizational requirements

  • Produce product design / solutions

  • Evaluate designs against requirements

This also can be explained with the help of below-given graphics:

If this product design meets the user requirements, this leads to the final product development.

We will discuss more about the "User-centered design" in the part 2 of this article.