How many times has your company rolled out a new software package that is the next big thing and it causes more problems than it solves because it is difficult to use?
Nine times out of ten, the problem is that the people expected to use the software were not consulted consistently as it was built. Paraphrasing a popular user experience book, “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug, good, usable software should not make the users think about what to do, it should be obvious and intuitive.
Since experts like Jakob Nielsen recommend spending up to 10% of a project’s software development budget on usability, where’s the payoff in all this? Only in two areas. One, while the software is being built. And two, after the software is implemented. Other than that, it doesn’t matter at all!
OK, seriously now, following good usability practices, such as prototyping and usability testing with the ultimate users of software saves development effort because you don’t need to undo or redo development that doesn’t work for the users. Second, following these types of practices saves on training and end user support. Because the people who will use the system help design it, they need little or no training to use it. They also generate less support calls and requests for bug fixes or new features that were missed in the original design. Third, for a revenue-generating site, good usability can increase purchase volume many times over.
One study found that every $1 spent on usability during software development could save from $10 to $100 during the system’s life. Think about that next time you are considering new software. Want to learn more? Check out the Usability Professionals Association.