Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Selling Usability

If anybody is having issues with the notion of "selling usability" here are a few resources to pull from:
Part of selling usability, in my opinion, is also making sure to include additional stakeholders (other than the users) within the process--especially since users aren't always the customers and it might be harder to sell usability if there's not that direct connection to the almighty dollar. Here are just a couple of links discussing involving stakeholders in the user experience process:
The other thing to keep in mind is that a lot of projects you may find yourself on you may run into issues of a project manager who views a project as their "baby" and becomes the chief impediment to fixing problems because they designed/coded it originally and they know what their product should be (in cases like that, if you can move to a different team, I recommend it--let the manager kill their own product). The other thing you will probably run into a decent amount is where everybody on a team uses the product and considers themselves a "user" and argue that they know what's best in terms of usability--that's where video clips of users flailing around the product are particularly helpful in convincing team members that a problem exists.


  1. Thanks for the links as this is a key problem for my company. We have a few employees that evangelize usability, but our company is not quite "ripe" enough yet. One thing I have noticed as I've started searching for guidance on exposing more decision makers to usability ideas, is that these suggestions tend to be from a UX designer's point of view. That is a great start, but how does someone currently in a developer role push this same agenda while still fulfilling their non-UX position? I would love to hear/read about suggestions or experiences where developers have been able to push UX before being in a UX position.

  2. When I was working at a defense company doing some semi-development work, what I found was I was able to convince the majority of th people I worked with that usability was important was partially by latching onto the fact that they were working on a redesign of the product to begin with (switching backends from Access--of all things--to MySQL). However, that project had the special issue of a manager who viewed the project as his baby (he came up the product, did much of the original coding, etc.) and even changes that are obvious to most people with even simple development backgroudns (restructuring the database to reduce redundancy--which he was pushing on to the user by making them enter data twice) were shot down by him even though the other people invovled on the project (and the single "user" of the product wanted it). In that case, the team ended up going over the manager's head and we created a decent mockup of a redesign using a restructed database (but in a lot of companies doing that isn't wise--and if I was there for the long haul, not sure I would have gone there). Generally though, getting in on a redesign and pushing usability during that (and showing the success that came from that) is one great way to try to sell usability without stepping on too many toes.

    I also just came across this article that discusses how often, when dealing with management, the best way to sell usability is by not selling usability directly--use 'business lingo' like return on investment, increased customers, reduced cost of customer support, etc.:

    Also, this post is yet another one that discusses the importance of (and ways of) selling usability:

    With all of this, it can maybe be argued that the 'core' of HCI disciplines often misses a key area: marketing. It can be argued that you only need to sell ideas in the business world, but I would argue that you have to do just as much selling in academia--selling research to potential funding organizations, selling results to publishers and conference attendees, selling ideas to a class, etc. It's an important skill that, in my opinion, too many (traditional) students (in all disciplines) don't understand the need/have experience selling themselves or their ideas, but I would argue it's one of the most crucial skills you'll need (no matter what your life goals are). That's not anything against the students themselves, that's something I see more as a failure of the system since (traditional) academia views business with a level of distaste and don't admit to the business aspects of academia (even if it's not about the money).


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