I set my digital watch the morning after this year’s daylight saving time ended. It’s a well-known brand, a solar-power model that has far more features than any watch should. I purchased it because of its interesting combination of analog and digital time features. I made a mistake.
I quickly discovered that it was conceived of by a malicious product team that challenged itself to create a highly complex device, and while doing so, set out to make the user experience as complicated as possible as a sadistic prank. In my mind’s eye, I see them high-fiving each other as they watch me through the remote camera they installed in the face solely for the purpose of monitoring how frustrated users get. I make them very happy.
While I joke about the intention of the product team in my example above, we’ve all had these experiences where it seems like there was never a thought given to making the usability, or user experience, easy. Whether it’s a watch, washing machine, computer or car, sometimes it seems like the goal of the product is the opposite of making life easier.
The purpose of World Usability Day
Each year, on the second Thursday of November, we celebrate World Usability Day events around the world. The purpose of this global event is simple: dissolve the misnomer of human error. This is easier said than done. It’s the reason many like-minded organizations put their heads together to work toward this challenging but attainable goal.
Human-computer interaction (HCI) and user experience (UX) groups around the world have set out to simplify technology so it can be fully used as an infrastructure for education, healthcare, government, communication, entertainment, work and other areas. How do you do this? Train product and service development organizations to think about serving people first. And how do you do that? By involving people – as many and as diverse as possible – in product design, strategy, development and testing.
The human element in user experience
If you want to make something that humans love, use humans to help you design it, test it and give you perpetual feedback until what you hear sounds like love. It’s really that simple.
Some of the world’s largest corporations, and some of the smallest, understand this. A great example is Microsoft. In 2019, after releasing its Xbox Adaptive Controller the year prior, its accessibility team began work on a first version of Xbox accessibility guidelines. Soon after, its engineering and accessibility teams worked on a platform-provided game accessibility testing program. The program can validate games for accessibility using its Xbox accessibility guidelines. It also invites gamers with disabilities to test its games and give feedback before release, influencing development and improving accessibility.
In another example, a small video game developer, Naughty Dog, began to make the shift to inclusive thinking and better usability for all as a result of a letter from one of its gamers. While playing Uncharted 2 and near the end of the game, the player was required to push a button rapidly but wasn’t able to. The hurdle of this seemingly simple task ended the game. The letter from this single user got the studio thinking about a new direction and intention: how to create parity for all users. Get more details in the blog Play or Game Over: Unlocking Inclusivity in the Streaming, Gaming and Home Entertainment Space.
Moving the end user to the front of your development
Even if your application works as designed and has no glitches, users will not adopt it long term unless it is easy to use and intuitive. Apt designers understand that the user interface can move users into a state of oneness with apps, where they feel integrated and find themselves consistently in the app because it’s as if the app was designed by them; everything just makes sense and demands little of them in doing what they need — or want — to do.
How do you build this experience? It starts by gaining an in-depth understanding of what your customers prefer and how they behave. You can’t know this without a broad spectrum of human insight to help you build customer-centric products and services. Getting persons with disabilities (PWD) involved in your design and testing should always be a big part of raising your customer insight IQ, but it’s not just about PWD. Organizations that truly want to design optimal user experiences and make beautifully simple products that significantly reduce the existence of human error in our experiences, put people — not technology — first.
Crowdtesting helps organization connect to real, verified user experiences
Crowdtesting leverages vetted groups of testers — real users around the world — that meet your specific customer demographic. The testing team typically enlists users who already use your app, or if it’s new to market, are familiar with the sector in which your organization operates and able to provide relevant insights.
When it comes to usability, Applause has been working almost two decades with organizations to choose from multiple study types to help them get a complete view of their customer experiences. All of our UX studies are led by a UX expert, and respondents are customized to our customers’ demographic. Organizations receive valuable insights about the intuitiveness of applications and customers’ willingness to use them.
Of course, usability may extend into customer journey testing, where organizations can access a holistic view of end-to-end customer experiences. We will assemble teams that, again, match your target demographic and mobilize them to travel through your online or on-premise customer journeys. Our customers get in-context feedback and recommendations to improve their omnichannel experiences.
It’s never too late to make things better
Depending on where you read it, the Chinese proverb goes something like this. When is the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. When is the second best time? Today.
Over the years of working with our customers, many have said that they wished they’d jumped into involving customers and their insight much earlier. They envisioned the feedback collection process being more complex – they thought that it would completely upend their organization and be painful. In fact, what we’ve seen is quite the opposite. When organizations wait to test late in the software development lifecycle, it’s much more complex and expensive to correct defects – and of course – they lack the insight to make their app better. When organizations shift left to involve a wide array of users to give input to design, and then involve them with testing, organizations and their user experiences improve.
If some very large global organizations, like Webex and others, can turn the ocean liner and initiate more inclusive practices that lead to optimized usability and user experiences, so can your organization. Applause user experience testing can help.