Following on from part 1, we have another 5 reasons why products and services so commonly deliver poor usability:
6) Too many cooks
When a project team has too many stakeholders or a large team with no clear project leadership or role definition, the team can suffer from too many conflicting opinions on how the product should be designed. Often, the team will argue among themselves to try to implement interface changes they *think* are the best for the project. If this goes unchecked product development is at the mercy of whims, speculation and ego. Project teams have little or no sanity check on their ideas and tend to lose focus on who they are designing for and what they need.
7) Poorly defined project objectives
We are always surprised at how few projects have clearly defined project objectives when we first engage with a new client. When projects have no clear objectives, the product or service is likely to grow in a haphazard fashion. Over time the project team lose interest with it and the users suffer from a mismatch of features and functionality. A clearly defined set of business objectives balanced with a clearly defined set of user/customer objectives is critical to delivering consistently good experiences to customers.
8) There are no incentives for good usability
Very few teams are given incentives for offering good usability in product development. All too often, companies reward teams for more traditional measures or KPIs (customer satisfaction, budget, traffic, output etc.). It stands to reason that if project teams are not rewarded for improving usability, they will place more emphasis upon the aspects they will get recognised and rewarded for. Setting up regular usability tests with a clear benchmark at the beginning of the project will offer an excellent way to measure and incentivise usability in any project.
9) They are simply not aware usability is poor
We’ve heard many clients tell us that they already know what’s wrong with their product/service, yet they are always surprised when we report usability problems they had not even considered. It is very difficult to know you have usability problems unless you actually conduct usability testing on a regular basis. Customer comments, complaints, and website analytics can sometimes indicate that you have a problem, however they rarely give you insight into what the problem is and why it is occurring. This can only be discovered by observing users interact with the product or service, and many project teams have never done this.
10) Can’t see the wood for the trees
We’ve all experienced the feeling of being so close to something, we can no longer make good decisions. This happens all the time in projects where everyone has such an intimate knowledge of the product or service that they can not step back from it and see the bigger picture. They can start to make decisions which result in poor usability because they can no longer see the project from a user’s perspective. Independent, eternal advice is critical to integrate an objective perspective into their decision making processes and eliminate usability issues.
As we said in part 1, it is not easy to develop highly usable products and services. Eliminating poor usability happens throughout the entire project lifecycle from setting objectives at the beginning, right through to getting regular independent user input after the product or service has been launched.
Do you recognise any of our top 10 reasons for poor usability in your projects?
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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