Thursday, February 21, 2008

Organizational Aspects and Consumer Product Usability

Barriers to usability ...

"In a (somewhat older) alertbox column entitled Why consumer products have inferior user experience Jakob Nielsen provides two major reasons why consumer products suck usability-wise. Firstly, the (physical) consumer products industry lacks a usability incentive.

"In the past, manufacturers have had little incentive to emphasize usability. For physical products, customers have no user experience until after they've paid for the device. (In contrast, website customers get user experience up front: if a site's too difficult, they won't do business with the company, as they'll leave long before they get to the "buy" button.)"

And secondly, the lack of a usability culture at consumer products companies:

"Consumer electronics companies, in contrast, have a history of ignoring user needs. A few cellphone companies do a bit of usability, but in most industries, usability is unheard of. These companies are narrow-mindedly insular, and populated with lifers: automobile engineers only talk to others in the car industry; people designing cable boxes only talk to others in the television industry."

In the chapter Design as Practiced from the book Bringing Design to Software Nielsen's fellow usability guru and business partner, Donald Norman, provides some additional organizational factors that can lead to products that - well - could have been better. It's a hilarious account of best intentions and practical issues.

"[...] tells the story of the Macintosh power switch: of how he tried to simplify its placement and function, but was thwarted on all sides by sensible, reasonable technical problems. His central point is that design as practiced is very different from design as taught. In the actual situation, cultural, social, and organizational issues can dominate the user-oriented aspects of design."

There's a quote from a famous Dutch poet: 'Between dreams and deads, laws and practical gripes remain.' The poem is about a man who is considering to murder his wife. Seems to apply to product development as well though. Conclusion: in product development compromises have to be made. If you continuously compromise usability related aspects, you're not going to make this 'easy to use' thingy you had in mind."    (Continued via the product usability weblog)    [Usability Resources]

Product Design Era - Usability, User Interface Design

Product Design Era

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