— 18 July 2003 —
Okay. Time to be a little sensational. And no I am not being sensational for the sake of limelight, lemonlight, or any other flavoured light.
The tag line of this blog has been “Usability does work. Probably.” And I still believe it. Well, the “does work” part is what I believe. What I am trying to understand is, does usability even matter?
I speak here within the realm of Web design. Although I think my comments can cross domains, my world of late has been Web apps.
In my guest posting duties on SVN, I’ve tried to focus solely on topics that relate to design and usability. But I get very little feedback in the comments section. Wondering why, has led me down the path of, do what I do really matter? I don’t mean in the self-indulging way of, “If no one notices me, I’ll just die!” :) I mean, why can’t it be enough to just be a good designer? I vaguely remember a study on the usability of products that were produced by a designer without usability and one with usability and there wasn’t much better about the one that went through usability. I need to find that study.
Do try to understand for whom you are designing. Do adhere to the general design rules that have been distilled in other, related fields. But the just drawn the damn pictures, build it and put it out there. I am feeling that all usability does is make the designer feel good about his (since I am a “he”) choices. No one really knows how usable the product is until people actually use it. Many people I have talked with over the years have said similar things. “You never really know how well it’s going to perform until it’s out there.”
So what’s up with these incredibly long product development life cycles? I think the way I work is backwards. By the time the product is being piloted (which I think is a good thing), I am long gone from the project. I think I need to stick around. But then we don’t function on a “product” development structure, but a “project” one. The distinction is this: Full product focus vs. feature focus. This has good points and bad points.
But this usability thing during design just seems to be getting in the way. I am thinking about full-on lab tests. I don’t see a problem with showing initial design ideas to some people to get some general feedback. That’s quick, and you get to see the large, glaring problems (probably).
Bleh. Does usability matter?