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Blog Post

What I Talk About When I Talk About Usability

June 20th, 2016

Here at LookThink, we’re big on making user experiences better - not just through good design but also by incorporating usability into our design and development process. As we’ve said before, making “things” (products, platforms, websites, apps, customer experiences) more usable saves you (and your customers) both time and money and gives you a competitive edge.

So...what is “usability”?

Basically, usability is a quality attribute that helps determine how easy an interface (process, or tool, or product, or anything really) is to use. And we mean anything... whether it’s improving an air traffic control system, making it easier for a traveler to reschedule a missed flight, or making your business problem less of a barrier for your customers - if we’ve done our job, you don’t even know you needed us. To do that, we apply different user research and evaluation methods to talk to and observe actual users - not just internal staff from Business or Marketing.

Our Process

We’ve discussed/explained the value of incorporating user research into every technology project that we do. But what does user research and evaluation actually look like? In almost all of our projects, we incorporate it by:

  • Learning about users. These are our clients’ customers. They should have the biggest say in how the end product or experience is designed.
  • Learning the business environment. We need to know what the competition looks like,  challenges this type of business faces, and overall industry trends in order to design a usable product.
  • Conducting some task and information analysis. What will users need or want to do? In what order? Under what constraints?
  • Evaluating our designs in progress. Once the design and development is underway, we constantly vet our direction with users. Is all our work meeting their needs?
  • Evaluating usability results. Through reporting, analytics, user testing, customer feedback, is the new [product] meeting the user needs and goals it’s intended for?

Our Approach

When we hear you say... We're thinking...
Why aren't people using my portal?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Is your portal even usable?
  • Is your target audience interested in what your portal has to offer?
  • Do the goals for your portal match your target audience’s goals?
Why is the call center so busy when the answers are on our site?
  • What are the common questions that your call center receives?
  • Where is this content located on your site?
  • What do users think about (what problems are they having) when they look for that content?
Should we even go to market with this product? Do people want it?
  • How do potential users feel about this type of a product?
  • How would it help them?
  • Does it satisfy a need that no other product can accommodate?
  • How should it be offered, and at what price point?
Is this redesign a significant improvement? How do we know?
  • Can users find what they’re looking for or do what they want to do faster and easier than before?
  • Do they want to come back to the site?
  • Are more users accessing the site than before?
  • Are users aware that the site has been redesigned?
We don’t know what we need!
  • What are your goals with this product?
  • How is the competition meeting that need?
  • What are the gaps and deficiencies with what you have now?

In our next blog post, we’ll talk about how we actually DO usability: how to determine scope, any constraints, and choosing appropriate methodologies.

Thanks to:

Quesenbery, Whitney. “Choosing the right usability technique: Getting the answers you need.” User Friendly 2008 Workshop. Accessed June 15, 2016. http://www.wqusability.com/handouts/righttechnique-uf2008.pdf.

Nielsen Norman Group. “Usability 101: Introduction to Usability.” January 4, 2012. Accessed June 15, 2016. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-101-introduction-to-usability/.