by Steve Mackos, Usability Specialist
Reprinted from Usability Interface, Vol 6, No. 3, January 2000
Editor’s Note: Steve asked us to omit the name of the company cited in this article.
Every year, Company X holds a North American user conference, and this year about 1200 current customers attended. For the last two years I have run a usability lab where we tested 6 future UI designs with our customers across 12 breakout sessions. I have been asked to justify the value of continuing our usability lab and here is what I have learned so far:
- Commitment – showing customers that we are committed to making products easier for them to use.
- Feedback and opinions – the opportunity to test and interact with current customers because they give us more real-world feedback.
- Observation – the opportunity for other Company X people to watch real customers interact with their product first-hand.
- Public relations and customer satisfaction – giving users the feeling that they are (or can be) a part of the process of designing the user interface, giving them a chance to influence the products that they use
- Informal learning – giving us the opportunity to learn about our customers, being able to watch over their shoulders as they work on representative tasks.
- Cost effectiveness – a single traditional usability test with real customers costs Company X approximately $30,000. The user conference is an ideal place to talk to users because we can conduct 12 usability tests without these overhead time/travel/equipment costs.
- Innovation – by testing future product user interfaces, we are demonstrating a commitment to ongoing innovation and development.