Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Usability testing ≠ a good user experience

On strategic user experience ...

"Let’s cut right to the chase: usability testing does not equal a good user experience. What do I mean by this? I mean that taken alone, usability testing cannot lead to a compelling and satisfying user experience. There are many reasons for this, but the most critical one is that design – or even better, strategic design – is the only sure-fire way to intentionally arrive at a good user experience for your product or service.

Why isn’t usability testing and evaluation sufficient? Because usability work is almost always tactical. And even when it’s done across releases, the results are usually used tactically, for the latest release. What this means is that usability testing and evaluation can find problems with your site or product or service… but alone, they don’t:

- Craft a unified user experience
- Plan for tomorrow’s user experience
- Create delight, loyalty, stickiness

Strategic user experience planning yields a unified and consistent user experience. And strategic design leads to great user experiences, ones that are characterized by delight, loyalty and stickiness. So how do you attain these? By designing the user experience for now, for next year…and for the year after that. And by designing the entire experience, not just your web site’s user interface, or your email campaign’s HTML.

Let’s talk for a minute about strategy and tactics.

What is “strategy?” Here’s a serviceable definition from Wikipedia:

“[Strategy is] A long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal….strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions by its orientation on affecting future, not immediate conditions.”

Here’s a good example:

* Strategic plan: Go from airport to hotel
* Tactics: Make some turns

“Find and fix” usability is like making a turn. It’s a good thing to do… If you know where you’re going. And that’s where strategy – and strategic user experience - comes into play.
In my next Apogee column, I’ll expand upon the thoughts I’ve shared above, as well as provide some guidance and suggestions for how to focus your organization on the strategic user experience, instead of merely tactical usability."    (Continued via Apogee, Paul Sherman)    [Usability Resources]


Anonymous Cindy Alvarez said...

I would add: usability testing measures a fairly "canned" experience. It's often done with prototypes and fake data, where there's less "on the line" for the user testing subject.

It's easy for subjects to tell you they can't find the button, or that they're not sure where to go next... but that's different from "I don't feel confident entering my credit card #" or "I can't tell when this payment will debit from my account and I might overdraw".

In other words, testing usability, not experience. It's important to find usability problems, but those are often a lot cheaper to fix than experience issues.

10:37 AM  

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