Saturday, January 19, 2008

Strategic Usability: What Do People Want?

Usability tools for differrent needs ...

"Usability is not one tool or technique. I'm constantly frustrated by the attitude among some specialists that their particular area of expertise or favorite tool holds the one-and-only secret to the ultimate user experience.

This is especially ironic since usability, by its nature, requires some humility. The first thing you have to do to really understand people is to admit that you don't know everything. Ultimately, while we use the word "usability" to refer to specific methods, the science of usability comes down to a fairly broad question: What do people want?

Strategic usability, in my personal vernacular, applies that question to a business or goal-oriented setting, and crosses into other territories, such as persuasion and marketing. Broadly speaking, I think you can boil the tools and techniques of strategic website usability down to three questions:

1. Do People Like What You're Doing?

You've built a website, and people are coming to it. Do they get it? Many tools and techniques revolve around the question of evaluating, quantitatively, what you have in the here-and-now, including:

* Web Analytics
* Eye Tracking
* Heat Maps

2. Do People Want What You're Not Doing?

Where quantitative methods start to break down is in finding your gaps. What aren't you doing that you should be? For this, you have to experiment, talk to people (observe them in a more interactive setting), and see what others are doing that's working. Tools include:

* Split/Multivariate Testing
* One-on-one Testing
* Competitive Analysis

3. Do People Want What You're Selling?

This is where we venture into product development and marketing; a great user experience won't save you if no one wants what you're selling. Part of the strategic usability equation is the unconstrained question: "What do you want?" This is often evaluated with:

* Market Research
* Focus Groups"    (Continued via User Effect)    [Usability Resources]

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