Archive | September, 2008

The 10 most common reasons for poor usability – part 1

15 Sep

You only really notice the usability of a product when it’s not there. It’s very easy to come up with examples of poor usability, but for the most part, people don’t usually know the reasons for why one product is easy to use, and one is difficult and frustrating to use. Well, it doesn’t happen by accident! Most of the great products out there that we enjoy using have been through intensive user experience design and usability testing.

Here’s our ten most common reasons for why a product has poor usability:

1) Too much focus on features and technology

Many projects start off with project leaders and stakeholders having a strong desire to use latest technology or to develop a product with endless features. Feature development and testing are given a high priority and will often have a dedicated technical team responsible for them. The projects which go wrong are the ones that fail to balance these features against what users really need. Instead user requirements are an afterthought thrown in towards the end of development when much of the interface has already been developed.

2) Designers and developers ‘scratch their own itch’

In absence of any contact with real end users, designers and developers have no option than to use their own experiences as a guide.  They end up designing the system according to their own capabilities, understanding and beliefs. Often they will be so deep into the project that they rarely question their decisions. If it works for the way they would use it, then that is good enough.

3) No-one has considered what people really need to use the interface for

It’s easy to get caught up in the detail of a project and immerse yourself in the complexities of how to make a product work well. Sometimes, a project team can be so focused on the inner workings of the system that they fail to step back and question their design decisions from a user perspective. Understanding what users really need, and what situations they are likely to be in when they use the product can completely change the direction of the design.

4) The person with the final say has little or no interface design experience

Often, we will come across a competent and well meaning project leader responsible for the end product who has to make the call on how the product looks and operates. More often than not, this person has little or no experience of user interface design and unwittingly makes decisions without fully considering the impact on the users.

5) Too much focus on quantitative measurement

When a website is doing well, you’ll hear the project team talking about numbers. The number of unique visits, the number of conversions, the number of page views and so on. Unfortunately, the usability of a product or website is not so easily measured. Whilst project teams may know they have a problem with basket abandonment, or low page views on key pages of the site, they rarely understand why users behave the way they do which is key to understanding how to improve usability to fix the issue.

Part 2 of the 10 most common reasons for poor usability.

Do you recognise any of these most common reasons for poor usability?

Related service: Usability Testing



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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

Small changes can make a big difference to customer experience

5 Sep

Credit Card Machine

I paid for a train ticket over the counter yesterday. As I completed the transaction I nearly walked off leaving my Debit card in the PIN machine. As I turned back to the machine to retrieve the card the chap behind the counter said something along the lines of, “That was lucky. We’ve already had three people leave their cards here this morning.”

Three people, this morning, have walked away leaving their card in the machine. Can you imagine arriving for a day in London and realising you’ve left your Debit card somewhere? Pretty stressful huh?

If your customers are suffering – take action

So having already experienced people leaving their cards, would it not be courteous to remind customers to remove their cards after the transaction?

Since Chip & PIN, all organisations have had to invest heavily in installing new equipment to cater to the new technology. However, I can’t help but ask myself if some of this technology either hasn’t been thought through properly, or is not being used properly.

Technology shouldn’t create customer experience issues

If the staff working behind a counter are unable to see the Chip & PIN machine it would be useful for their screen to inform them that the card has not been removed. They can then prompt the customer. Like most ‘simple’ fixes, it becomes less simple to fix once the technology is complete.

If the full customer journey and scenarios are planned and mapped out prior to build, these minor details will be catered for. And if customers are introduced to the project early, to test a prototype, the barriers will be highlight and dealt with before these ‘simple’ issues become costly fixes.

Do you involve customers in your project process early enough?

Related services: Customer Journey Mapping and Usability Evaluation & Testing



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Ali Carmichael

About Ali Carmichael

Ali (or Alasdair) is an experienced project manager who loves his Gantt charts and milestones! He has over 12 years' experience managing successful online experiences for world class brands. Ali is responsible for ensuring our clients love what we do for them. Follow Ali on twitter @AliJCarmichael