Saturday, January 26, 2008

When Is Usability Bad for Business?

Business and usability clash ...

"First off, for anyone new to this blog, let me assure you that I'm a big proponent of website usability. As a professional, though, I've worked with a lot of small companies, and I find that we often have to balance the needs (and demands) of the client with the needs and desires of their end users. Achieving this balance isn't always easy, to say the least.

Below are a few scenarios where usability and business can clash:


One of the buzzwords of the Web 2.0 era is definitely "transparency"; transparency in business practices, product information, customer experiences, etc. I'm a believer in transparency, but it's often a hard sell to small companies, especially when they have a lot of competitors.

Of course, end-users want to know everything they can about a company, and the ideal is to have a clean slate for everyone to see, but that's not always the reality. Sometimes, usability has to be balanced with reputation management and competitive interests.

Customer Reviews

An offshoot of transparency: more and more customers expect to see product reviews and the opinions of other customers. I've encountered many small companies who were afraid to add these features and hear what their customers had to say. What if, to put it bluntly, your products suck?

Honestly, this is an area where I've often found clients' fears to be overblown, and most of those who allowed feedback found it to be constructive. It's an understandable concern, though, and releasing control of website content to your customers can be a scary proposition.


More and more customers want the ability to search and navigate on price and access to price comparison tools. These are often great features, but making price searching easy can also drive your customers to a bargain-hunting mentality. I've run tests where a more flexible price search increased conversions but drove customers to lower-priced products, in some cases driving down short-term revenues."    (Continued via User Effect)    [Usability Resources]

Business vs. Usability - Usability, User Interface Design

Business vs. Usability


Anonymous DigiKev Digital Media said...

Pete, I have just written a post which picks up on some of the topics you have raised here, namely clients fears of embracing social media. In my opinion we need to talk clients around to the fact that all feedback is good even if customers are saying the product/service sucks. Conversing with customers and finding out the problems they have with the product/service and making corrections from this feedback is going to raise the clients profile, show that they care for their public and want to improve services. It may be a knock back in the short-term but put a good spin on it and the bigger picture looks brighter.

6:56 AM  

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