3 Ways to Ensure the Best Usability Experience Possible

Inge Debleecker Inge De Bleecker
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Stellar usability is a crucial building block for top-notch customer experiences

Usability spans everything. Whether it’s a historically “simple” product — a kitchen blender, for example, or a more complex product like a car — it is incumbent on organizations to create technologies that humans can easily use to their fullest ability. This idea lies at the heart of today’s World Usability Day, a day of global events that unite communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for a common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use.

Usability creates the foundation for the customer experience (CX). If your product user experience (UX) is poor, there’s no way you’ll achieve a great customer experience. This, in turn, will negatively impact the success of your product. World Usability Day aims higher than organizational goals of selling more products and creating the ultimate CX, however; it exists to end the misnomer of “human error” and put the onus on organizations to stop creating difficult-to-use technologies. After all, if we are able to create these amazing technologies that can be so impactful, we ought to be able to make them easy to use.

There are three key areas that must be part of usability efforts:

  • Accessibility

  • Omnichannel usability

  • Crowdtesting with real people

Accessibility

Organizations should make products that are available and enjoyed by everyone, yet the 15% of the world’s population that live with some form of disability do not always have access to all digital experiences and other technologies. Clearly, when you consider this, any organization that excludes anyone from access to their product or service is failing on the usability front.

On the World Usability website, the organization states that we must put people at the center of design, beginning with their needs and wants, resulting in technology that benefits all of us. Accessibility must be woven into the fabric of all technology efforts. When persons with disabilities are part of product and service design, contributing real-life feedback on how products perform for them, usability goes from an abstract to actual.

Prioritizing accessibility and accessibility testing goes beyond just doing the right thing for people in general. People with disabilities represent a significant global market. The annual disposable income of this population is around $1.2 trillion (US). Assess your products to ensure you’re not missing out and can support all potential customers. And, again, when everyone can access your products and easily use them to their fullest, the potential for progress and improved future iterations of technology increases substantially.

Omnichannel usability

The World Usability Day organization highlights six key areas in which usability must thrive: education, health, government, communication, privacy & security, and entertainment.

I’ll take one of the six key areas - government - and draw the similarities in omnichannel thinking to business as it relates to usability.

The World Usability Day organization states that global governments seek to use new technology to better serve their citizens and increase participation in the civic experience. People can pay taxes and take care of business online in many countries; this capability should be available to everyone, eliminating the digital divide that separates rich from poor or isolates social groups. Voting systems must ensure trust and confidence in elections. Technology that supports civic engagement must give everyone equal access and opportunity, and must be easy to use and understand by all citizens, including those with disabilities of any kind. I couldn’t agree more and the same goes for digital products and services in the for-profit sector.

Can you provide low-to-no-friction omnichannel experiences for your customers no matter where they live? If someone wants to research your product on your site, use your voice assistant to ask a specific question and then buy the product and pick it up in store, will they find the process easy? Even if it’s easy, could it be better? Are there clear avenues for customers to give feedback - good or bad? Have you tested your channels on different networks under varying stressors, like during a major sporting event? What about on a large array of mobile devices, desktops, tablets and on many different operating systems?

It’s not enough to just rely on one or two channels and newer devices. A one-size-fits-all strategy for omnichannel misses the usability target. Have you localized your product with accurate language dialect and awareness of local customs that may impact the UX? What about security, data privacy and payment? There are many overlaps with for-profit and the six key areas above.

This is where a comprehensive customer journey strategy and testing roadmap are core to great usability.

Crowdtesting is the key to real-world usability success

What better way to get direct feedback on usability than to test it with diverse users around the world? This is what crowdtesting is all about. Crowdtesting, also known as community-based testing or in-the-wild testing, leverages custom testing teams sourced from a community. They can stand up testing at a moment’s notice, test in any language, on any device and operating system. They understand the subtleties of their own cultures.

Certain efforts to make technology easy to use can mean one thing in one culture, yet significantly miss the mark in another culture where, for example, certain colors or even typography can take on different meanings. Icons in an interface may convey different concepts depending on the culture. Crowdtesting ensures your usability is top notch.

A key theme of World Usability Day is about making life easier. To quote their website: “Well-designed user experiences allow for the uniqueness of people’s different strengths and beliefs to co-exist in a place of similarity and common ground. Tools and technologies that embrace similarities to tap into the potential of all people creates conditions that promote people to be their best selves, to cultivate and nurture people will produce better outcomes in all we do.”

To make technology most useful, make it easy, fun, safe, fully accessible and all the other things that World Usability Day stands for, industry, education, healthcare, government and other sectors must take a step back and ask the basic questions:

  • Are we fully inclusive?

  • Does every path to our product have the ease and simplicity required to make it truly a user-friendly experience?

  • Are our products as intuitive and easy to use as possible? How do we prove this?

  • Have we tested every scenario we can think of in the most rigorous way with actual users in all of our markets?

Working with a “crowd” which includes all ethnicities, languages, abilities, genders, age and more is key to answering these questions.

Take the concept of World Usability Day with you to work everyday. Learn more about how Applause’s User Experience Testing can help.

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