Research, Dev, Share

Some thoughts in usability

Posted in Usability by Khang Vo on January 27, 2010

I am currently working at a mobile phone development company (Multinc) and I started to see and learn many more things about usability, which can be said as the main strength of iphone. So, I want to share some usability experience when developing and working with iphone team and as usual, I also wanted to hear more experience from other people from other cultures. Usability is a ambiguous term and almost depends on the culture and users’ type. I will try to give out experience about normal, ordinary users more than advanced (e.g IT) users because most of us create software for ordinary users rather than advanced one and may be this one is only for a group of users like American.

First and foremost, the most important thing should stick into our, developers’ mind, is that “Most, or even all users are stupid and lazy”.  How many cases that you can teach your friends, your families or anyone using IT successfully? How many cases, even IT guys spend on reading instructions of a new software/game/websites, and how many hours for non-IT people? Our answers will make us understand clearly about users, especially non-IT people. They want to finish their jobs on computer without caring or have to care about technology at all. Why do they have to spend their valuable time for something supposed to help them make their job easier and faster?

The second thing is that users have problem, the fault should never be their faults, or more precisely, it must be software providers’ fault. They type some bad pasword, text input that we do not parse or check before and system crash. It is our faults. They use our system not in the way we want, it is our fault. IMO, there is no such thing in the world that the customer is false, they are always true, by default. So, if there is some bug, or some crash and users give bad feedback, any classic excuse (like “It works on my machine”, “They should never use my system like that” … ) never works.

The third thing can be “you should never teach or try to teach your users at all”. All assumptions like “They have to/need to read our instruction and manual” are really stupid. It is like the first one, all users are lazy (and also stupid to learn new thing), if we give users software with an instruction on how to install it, most of cases they may give up so soon, the only thing they may know is click “Next”. Despite the great idea of our software, if user can not use it in a short enough time, user will move away from it. I do not have many experience on business but with a period of time working as marketing and sales assistant teaches me one important thing: Marketing for users to come is 1 thing, keep them is another story. If users come and they leave, they will never come back. So, IMO, having a user leave is worse than not having that user at first.

Some suggestions for software development, this list is really long but I want to list few important ones:

_Be aware of any users’ problem and compatibility. One problem I still see a lot in famous/good start up is compatibility. It looks bad on my browser, and I will never come back. This depends much on our market, but I even see an anti-virus website shows ugly on Google Chrome.

_A good feedback system is important. I will never come back to any company that the customer service dare to say: “It is your fault”. Make the user feel free to write any feedback and respect them. We need them (except you are Microsoft or Google), but they do not need us yet. Treat them as “God”

_Implicit learning can always be implemented. Explicit learning is too difficult, except we have awards for any feedback or we hire people to do so, so implementing implicit learning may be a good idea. Some ways of implicit learning in software/website I can know is : logging, look at any click, any move around our system, relationships between service and product they buy, time they spend on something. Add more if you can.

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