Friday, February 06, 2009

President Obama - Vision for Usability?

Usability can be found everywhere ...

"Barack Obama's vision weighs heavily on the value of Information Technology (IT) investment and innovation, including staffing the nation's first office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Obama's vision for IT is to invest in it to further social change. This is distinctly different to Bush's IT agenda which seemed to extend only as far as military and Homeland Security.

Five Things the Obama Administration should do to improve technology ease of use:

1. Understand that a strong usability focus will be needed to achieve social goals.
Today we see usability slowly creeping into regulations and standards. For example, the FDA is mandating usability in medical device development; the government is backing standardization of enterprise software architecture (the FEA framework PDF); or that there are a few existing low-profile initiatives for promoting usability best practices as well as encouraging the importance of usability in government website development. A more coordinated and higher profile effort for "humanizing technology" will be needed. Industry understands that usability creates profitability. Having federal backing can help bootstrap organizations, non-profits and businesses who don't have access to usability methods and expertise.

2. Ensure the new CTO learns from and understands the past 10 years of Web and Software usability best practices.
It is vital that the new federal CTO understands and helps promote usability within the new government. It would be tragic to make the classic mistake of 'technology for technology's sake'. The Obama Web team has demonstrated its skill. For the rest of the government and the older Clinton politicians, there is a need to educate and champion usable IT. Obama's CTO must be familiar with corporate usability lessons and mistakes in deploying buggy, useless, unsatisfying, unintuitive and user-hostile software and web services over the past decade. Usability is a documented science, this needs to be understood.

3. Realize that the Web 2.0 and Social Media efforts of the campaign and change.gov effort so far tie to a national usability agenda.
People have been able to access Obama's message because he has made it so accessible. If this is accidental then good for you! However there is a science behind this and many more non-savvy companies, organizations and non-profits are light years behind the success that has been pioneered with the Obama campaign. Any initiative or effort to empower the citizenry with technology needs to be tempered with human-centered design (another name for user-centered design) standards and guidelines.

4.Redefine usability as not just another technical standard or guidelines but an approach to empowering humans with technology.
What Apple has been doing with its products is needed at the national level. Take a vision, base it in known usability best practices and make it work passionately. We need stronger regulations, better initiatives and closer ties with government and industry to promote cross-pollination of best practices. Usability needs to be understood as not just another technical item (as Accessibility has been treated), but the entire purpose of the product. We need new thinking and leadership within our own usability community to communicate this, and likewise we need an executive federal level understanding that usability is a mandatory requirement and approach for technology initiatives.

5. Technology should be rewarded (funded) when innovated for social good.
What types of innovations can be developed by industry and individuals that support the nations goals for social good? Let's do what Bush did with the Homeland Security innovation dollars but make the innovations we fund have a social improvement backbone, instead of a military and security one."    (Continued via Usability News, Demistifying Usability)    [Usability Resources]

Obama's Usability - Usability, User Interface Design

Obama's Usability

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