Usability and Development Time

After recently finishing a wire frame process, I was congratulated by a project manager who announced my contribution to the team as having saved development time. Hmm, well that’s true and I’ll take the compliment, but there’s a lot more going on than just  that.

Without wireframes, I have seen development stumble down a path with a very myopic set of solutions when facing problems as they arise. The usability process always looks toward the big picture, the experience from start to finish. Factoring in cognitive and hierarchical task analysis, benchmarks and stats, and let’s not forget good old fashioned creativity and you do more than just help the process. You build a product that at worst saves users time and at best becomes a cornerstone of success.

One thing I know is if you don’t make things easy to use, people don’t use them, end of story. User centered design doesn’t guarantee success, but without it the probability of failure skyrockets. With it, there is the potential to destroy your competition.

When the iPod was released it was just another MP3 player, but the usability they put into that device made it something special. From September last year, Apple says it has 73.8 percent of the market, followed by 18 percent held by “other”, SanDisk at 7.2 percent and Microsoft at 1.1 percent share—http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/19294.cfm. With their closest competitor 55 percent behind them, I can guess they aren’t forced to spend hours and hours attempting to prove the ROI on usabiliy.

Anyway, saving development time is good. Realizing that the discipline can make or break you is better.

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2 comments

  1. Since I’m on the same project (and was also impressed), I’m really curious to know how you learned what you know about usability. I want to know more too.

    1. I have been studying it for the past 10 years. Books, Web sites and now Blogs are where I get my info.

      Jacob Nielsen’s Prioritizing Web Usability, and Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think are two must reads to get into it. I also like the book Designing the Moment. There are a lot of good titles out there in addition to these. Right now I am reading some things on cognitive task analysis, which is a pretty deep dive into some more of the more academic areas.

      The Web sites, http://boxesandarrows.com/, http://uxmatters.com/, and http://www.useit.com/ are great online sources.

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