A calculation I did on a project to show the
of not addressing an identified usability problem.
You already know that your application needs to be "useful
The challenge is how to get your application "where
it needs to be" given the realities of available time,
budget, and human resources.
"How do Usability, User Centered Design,
and User-Experience relate to my
Today, business sponsors and end-users
alike know that usability
-- aka ease-of-use
-- can be the defining element of a successful website
or desktop application. But producing a usable application is not
is that technical complexities and constraints, intricacies of
business processes and regulatory requirements that must be supported,
uncertainties regarding the application's target users and their
optimal workflow(s), lack of usability focus and expertise on the project team, and the realities of the project's timeline and budget,
all conspire to produce an application
that does not serve its users as
well as it should.
Here are the principal roles
that make usability "happen" in projects today.
I have significant experience in the roles marked with a
Executive sponsors recognize the
value of usability to the success of their application and allocate
necessary resource and expertise to support the effort.
Project Managers ensure that the
project plan accommodates necessary usability engineering / user-centered
design activities, including user-research, prototyping, and usability
Business Analysts ensure that
essential business- and user-requriements are properly identified
and prioritized, and use-cases are written to address key usability
attributes identified for the particular application.
User Research Specialists use a variety of methods to gather essential
high-quality data about users and their tasks that will inform
application requirements and interactive design. Real, relevant information
provides a far better foundation for producing a usable application
than conflicting anecdotes and opinions of the project team.
(UI) Designers (AKA interaction designers, interactive
architects, user-experience architects) consider usability as the driving force of application design. Their ability to design
a usable application is a combination of intuitive ability, their
knowledge of and empathy for the application's target end-users
and their tasks, and their knowledge of and ability to apply usability
principles and effective interactive design solutions in a coherent
Usability Analysts ("Usability
Engineers") conduct reviews and user-testing to identify
usability problems in existing applications and throughout the
application design and development lifecycle. The problems are
diagnosed and possible solutions identified.
Information Architects provide
organizational structure and effective labeling (i.e., taxonomies)
for large collections of information so that relevant information
can be easily found by users through the application's user-interface
Primer on Information Architecture ).
Creative Directors consider marketing
objectives and create an appropriate visual and interactive brand
for your application. Their responsibility is more about look
and feel than the step-by-step mechanics of usability.
Graphic Designers create
information layout and interactive controls in a way that makes
the meaning and purpose of the application pages obvious to the
Solution Architects and Developersappreciate that usability is as important
to an application's success. They make the effort to consider
the "more usable way" to develop a solution.
The general "usability"
role on the project team
-- the person(s) with primary responsibility for ensuring
a usable application -- is hopefully a properly trained
usability analyst, business analyst, UI designer, or
Information Architect. This individual will invariably
use some of the proven methods of usability
Personally, I believe that the term
User-Centered Design (UCD) professional
is the most appropriate label for this role.
UCD is a design
methodology based on a continual,
hands-on focus on the real people
who will use your application. The User-Centered Design professional
conducts appropriate research
with real users
to truly understand their needs, abilities, processes, and environments
to inform useful and usable application design.
This research provides the foundation
for your application's design. Ongoing design is constantly focussed
on this knowledge. Feedback
on design is gathered from your application's actual end-users
throughout the project by testing early
prototypes; user's problems are
identified and diagnosed, and the design issue addressed before
it becomes committed to development. Feedback from testing is
also a remarkable way of understanding more about the user's work
context and their requirements.
UCD activities are integrated into your project plan from the
outset, and these activities begin well before coding resources
Unlike traditional business applications that
enjoy a captive user-base, the Internet is a battleground
of competition where your site's visitors choose whether
to engage or abandon your site.
A positive experience is needed to capture
and then maintain their interest so they can realize the value
your site provides, and become happy visitors and loyal customers.
Usability is an important part, but not the
only part, of a positive user experience. Effective design of
the complete experience will not
only quickly affirm that your site is easy to understand and use,
but also that:
your site provides value that
is worth pursuing
your business can be trusted
it understands each visitor, and why they are visiting the
if required for your brand, they will actually enjoy
Your visitors will be more than happy to help
your achieve to your business goals
when your interaction-design, graphic design, content, marketing
strategy and channel strategy are orchestrated to create these
User-Centered Design methods can focus on optimizing
this side of the user-experience, which is the more emotional
/ "right-brained" side, as opposed to the more mechanical,
logical "left-brained" nature of pure goal-driven
"How important is usability for my application?"
There are many sources of business-cases and
interesting stories that tout the value
/ ROI of usability
of business applications and e-Commerce sites. Most examples are
relics of an age when the lonely usability evangelist needed to
plead their case to business and technology owners. Many are anecdotes
of mythical proportion (Seven
Myths of Usability ROI ).
But there really isn't much analysis required to know that usability
Your software / web application increases
productivity and reduces errors
Less training. Your employees
or customers spend less time learning how to use your application
and disrupting coworkers for help, calling the help-desk or
call-center, or spending time and money in training. They become
productive more quickly. Documentation costs are reduced because
comprehensive product manuals are not necessary.
More productive. Users can accomplish
their tasks more quickly, with fewer or more obvious steps,
leaving less opportunity for costly errors. Fewer staff are
required to accomplish the same amount of work. Users are less
frustrated and stressed (isn't that what technology always promised
us?) Product liability for system-induced errors can be avoided.
Your e-Commerce site drives business results
Visitors to your site can quickly recognize
the value they seek and can then easily accomplish what
they came there for: they have no reason to go to another site
to achieve this. They trust your
online business, and even enjoy their visit, and will be sure
to visit your first the next time they have a need.
Your brand image is strong... and positive
In 2009 (and forever more...), the trade press routinely trumpets
the success or failure of the user-friendliness of technical products
and Internet sites. This news spreads quickly and with great credence
in community-based on-line reviews and the usefulness and usability
of your application is firmly established, for better or worse.
The risk to the overall success of your
project is better managed
By employing effective usability methods in your project, the
information that is needed to ensure a usable design is available
to your team when it is needed, before uninformed decisions
lay the foundation of what will grow into an unusable application
that is expensive to fix later.
"You say you are a user researcher, a usability analyst and
designer: So which
I have performed all of those roles as an industry
professional for more than 20 years in dozens of Information Technology
projects. A better description of all that I do is User-Centered
If you want to know more, here's how I got there.
User Researcher - In 1981 I was
awarded my Master's degree in Experimental Psychology based on
research to understand a relationship between human attention,
perception, and cognition (References on Google
The next 8 years completing my Ph.D. involved designing, conducting,
and publishing reports for contracted Human
Factors research in aerial search-and-rescue procedures,
aviation instrumentation, and air-traffic control errors (References
Usability Analyst - When I finished
my Ph.D. in Human Factors Psychology
(1990) I became a Software Engineer / Usability
Analyst at the IBM
Toronto Software Laboratory
doing traditional usability engineering work (design reviews,
lab testing) in big development teams for IBM enterprise-level
database technology and application development environments.
User Researcher, UI Designer -
In the early 90's our usability team at IBM pioneered User-Centered
As a User-Centered Design specialist,
I became more involved in hands-on interface design, but was especially
on defining and improving user research, requirements gathering,
and usability testing methods in large development projects. In
1995 I began evaluating IBM's first experimental Internet applications
and pioneered Internet and remote technologies to extend usability
evaluation and user-research into the workplace.
Usability Analyst, User Researcher
- I left IBM after 8 years to enter the
center of the Internet frenzy, where I led the Usability
Research and Analysis discipline at Bowne
Internet Solutions / Immersant ,
a large international web-development company. At Immersant I
worked with several Internet-project teams to ensure usable design
and effective user-experience, primarily for large Fortune 500
/ Global 1000 companies but also some small start-ups.
UI Designer, User Researcher, Usability
Analyst - In 2001 Immersant became a casualty of the bursting
Internet bubble. But it was clear to me that all big companies
would be opening up legacy mainframe applications
and archaic paper-based processes to Internet-based applications.
Also, the requirement for those applications
to actually be usable would no longer be a hard-sell. Every
one of those projects would benefit greatly from an experienced
usability / user-centered design professional.
In 2001 I establishedDon
Hameluck Usability Consulting Inc. to provide my
knowledge and experience directly to clients' project teams.
The majority of my work is designing
user-interfaces for business applications, but as
a User-Centered Design specialist, that means that I am
heavily involved in user-research, and usability analysis,
and business analysis as well.
I readily admit that I
am NOT a web visionary, a user-interface developer (programmer), a content developer, a visual designer, a marketing
/ branding specialist, a customer-relationship management expert,
or a quality-assurance specialist. These are all the professionals
that I closely work with on a typical project team.
"It's easy to find people who say they know usability. Why should
you be my
I am a Ph.D.-educated
professional who has worked in dozens
of user-interface usability / design
projects over the past 20 years
(see my clients
and resume and the section above).
Through my education and experience I know how to identify and
apply the usability engineering and User-Centered Design methods that will be most effective for your own project. I know the textbook
approaches, and I especially know how to
deliver in real development projects.
Through my 8 years working on database
and application development technology at IBM, I have considerable
experience in the programming and infrastructure
side of Information Technology projects. I appreciate the challenges
and opportunities of application design at levels far deeper than
just screen-design, and I can relate to your technical
architects and programmers.
I thrive when designing complex
I'm happy to leave flashy entertainment-oriented websites
to other experience-design specialists.
Regardless of whatever buzzwords are appropriate, the Internet
is moving towards delivering fully-featured applications, with many user-interface interaction styles
more reminiscent of classic desktop applications
of the 90's than early web properties.
I learned the foundations of GUI (graphical
user interface) design while
working on IBM's very first client-server / GUI products in the
early 1990's. While I have a long background in web design (since 1995), my background in application design
goes well beyond most web-designers.
I understand software engineering processes.
I have integrated usability engineering and user-centered design
methods into ISO-9001 procedures, the IBM Software Development
Process, and Rational Unified Process (RUP).
But I also know that the driving force of a project is results,
not just "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" of mandated
corporate development processes. I have delivered results in dozens
of development projects for many clients, ranging from huge process-driven
corporations to small agile tech start-ups.
I've learned how to relate
usability concerns to the diverse perspectives of your
executive sponsors, product stakeholders and decision-makers (both
"the business" and technology),
and project team members.
I understand that usability is not the
only measure of a successful project. Release dates, budget,
marketing plans, corporate policies, and technical complexities
need to be considered and prioritized alongside pure ease-of-use
concerns. My role is to identify business and project priorities
that cannot be compromised, and find opportunities to maximize
usability within those priorities.
I understand that respectful working
relationships with project team members are just as important
as following good processes for getting the job done. I
am not the "usability police."
Professor (contract faculty, York University)
of courses in Statistical Analysis and Advanced Research Design
for 17 years.
Editorial Board member for the Elsevier
Science journal Interacting with Computers for 15 years.