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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Selling Usability How Hard does it Have to BE?

Selling usability can be really hard to do, in large organizations or small. This is not as some would think because the returns aren't great or proven. Because they are.

When UX is done well, the results are well known, by everyone (I am so tired of hearing 'ipod! ipod!), but it is still a 'mystical' creature even to colleagues of mine. People have heard of it and want to hear more. OR people haven't heard of it at all. These are difficult situations to overcome in an organization but not impossible. Where there is smoke there's fire? These results must be coming from somewhere right? :)

Anyway the point is that people don't seem to know if they should believe it or not, apaprently its still a great risk to take, listening to the end user and working out whats best for them. The exponentially positive returns seem to only serve as reminders to people of its mythic proportions. Too good to be true right?...

The most dangerous thing I have come across are some people that believe they know what UX (User Experience) is really all about. Most of THESE people talk a lot about the look and feel of applications, it seems only to apply to websites, and these people can often use general vague and fuzzy terms to describe what it is I do. Changing their view on it and preventing them from spreading their misknowledge, dismissing UX as simply the 'look and feel', i.e. making just color choices and labeling decisions, is one of the hardest challenges to selling Usability in my organizations that I have come across.

I have worked in 4 organizations for UX and unless we have vocal executive support nothing can get done. I haven't had MUCH luck in selling it in these cases thats true,(except the fact that somehow I keep getting paid) but even when you do have executive support it doesn't always filter down, so the people we have to work with don't call us or dismiss our recommendations as mere opinion (albeit expert). 

Something I have seen work to help dispel these attitudes and myths is exposing people to the right parts of our process, with examples of success, and real experiences like inviting them as silent observers to usability studies (everyone I invite has an 'aha' moment afterwards like "I finally get it! Thats why this is useful!"). Designing with tools like iRise and Axure and other tools that can more easily visualize the design concepts and flow also really shows the value of UX design.
This is a demonstration of the simplicity that can come from redesigning a complex process keeping all the functionality but reducing the complexity, 

Seeing is believing.

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