Making Usability Usable

Making Usability Usable
Jacob Pierzchala
November 19, 2015
Electronic Devices Lineart

This past Thursday, MSU hosted Michigan’s 13th Annual World Usability Day, a conference focused on user-centered design and interaction. To those outside the user experience world, the topic may seem a bit off-putting, but the core concept is increasingly important and really quite simple: Make stuff that isn’t hard to use!

Though achieving this might be less straightforward, well-designed user experiences are worth the effort. They can increase sales, user base and engagement, while saving people time and eliminating frustration. Who wants to put up with a confusing iPhone app or assemble furniture based on poorly written instructions?

A number of things struck a chord with me at Thursday’s conference, and while presented in the context of industry, they may be applicable to other areas of our lives (after all, we all create things from time to time).

In addressing our audiences, Emily Mahood Bowman offered the following insights:

  • Remember that you are not your audience. Just because something makes sense to you, doesn’t mean others will react the same way. Test with the correct demographic!
  • Technology should not make people feel unintelligent. Effective usability makes complex things intuitive!

At the end of the conference, Josie Scott of Synchrony Financial described her experience with Agile, an adaptive software development method that was established in 2001. As detailed in the Agile Manifesto, this approach emphasizes:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The common threads here are flexibility and user (or audience) focus. And in this increasingly complex digital world, I cannot help but feel that these are major keys to success.