While usability is taken more seriously in recent times, there are some common myths on usability that still persist.
Myth 1 – Usability is expensive
Among the most common myths is that usability engineering (UE) is expensive, as many big software firms invest millions in setting up UE labs and they pay usability professionals highly. But what project managers and stakeholders fail to realize is that not every firm needs to invest so much. Usability methods are flexible and can be scaled up or down according to the situation. User tests can even be run in a spare conference room and existing staff can be taught how to conduct tests. Food for thought – on an average, best practices call for spending 10% of a design budget on usability.
Myth 2 – No scientific base for testing
This myth is based on the fact that only few users are utilized in a usability test. It’s assumed that based on few people’s observation, potential problems with the product can’t be uncovered. But a number of studies have shown that just 6 to 8 users typically uncover 80% of the problems with a given interface.
Myth 3 – Usability engineering delays the launch date
This is again a very common myth that surrounds usability. Usability need not be on a grand scale starting from entire user-centered design process followed to the letter and field studies. It can be as simple as paper prototyping and can allow you to go through several different design iterations in a few hours. One of the main benefits of letting user research drive design is that testers don’t have to spend time on features that users don’t need and can focus on resources to ship the product on time.
Myth 4 – No problems=No usability engineering
Though it may look as if there are no significant user-interaction problems reported for a product, it really may not be so. In many instances, users simply don’t report problems or at times problems are misinterpreted. Whatever the reason, unless the software firm does scientific research to gather user interaction data it’s not possible to know what the real problems are or if there are problems.
Myth 5 – We have already adopted usability engineering
There are many software firms who assume that verification tests, market trials, and a feedback form when a product releases are a part of usability testing. Just by interacting with a group of potential users and gathering user data doesn’t result in real user interaction testing. You need to get users early into the picture and ask them to use the software to complete certain tasks, without being told how to. The product is then rated based on how successful users are in completing those tasks. Issues are identified during these sessions and the product is improved based on the further recommendations.
The value of usability engineering and the role of the usability engineer are still not very well understood but it’s important to know that usability is an integral part of software quality and the correct usability methods are cheap, easy to implement, and won’t delay your project.