Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Future of Usability Is Linking To Business Needs

I was happy to see a post by Peter Abrahams at IT-Director.com on the Future of Usability Testing. The reason I was pleased to see this post was because it backed up my assertion from what I feel to be a credible source that usability and user-centered design during the conceptual and development phases of software, website and web applications, should be a holistic process.

By holistic process, I mean to say that the usability of the application should be linked to the business need. The business need can mean two things - one for the developer and the other for the customer.

As an advocate for usability, I find that user-centered design and usability applied throughout the development process lowers costs both before and after the application is released. During concept and development, user-centered design and usability under an agile methodology will lead to shorter time frame for the development phase, thus lowering development costs.

If there's one thing businesses love, it's lowered costs!

For the customer, a usable application means less support. Ease of use will allow them to be productive with the application and spend less time trying to train themselves how to do certain tasks. If an end-user can be self-sufficient in their use of the application, acceptance and productivity increases thus making the technology purchase a worthwhile investment. If they are able to complete their tasks quickly and efficiently with the application this can translate into lowered costs for the customer. The same is true for the developer. Money going toward support resources to handle "how-to" questions can be diverted to resources that tackle tough technical issues.

Since launching this blog I have written about this topic extensively. Here are some past posts on this subject:

I think it will take some time for business leaders to have a meeting of the minds with developers on the need for usability, as demonstrated by the panel discussion that Abrahams reported on in his article. When that will happen it is hard to say, but the trend appears to be moving in the right direction.

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