Usability is not something that’s black and white, on or off. A system can be technically functional but completely disastrous due to poor usability. A system that not only functions but also improves the work that users do can be said to be adding value to the business.
To build an IT system that exceeds user expectations and adds value you need to start with the users and their needs. This is called user-centered development .
In user-centered development you start by defining what benefit the system will deliver, to whom and where the benefits will occur.
User needs can be expressed in terms of functions and processes. These can then be solved by technology, not vice versa.
What is usage? Usage occurs in a specific context in which a person who has needs and goals is using some form of interface. If the interface is properly designed for the right user in the right context, usage exists.
Working with usability is not something fuzzy, it’s about working with a well established methodology following clear processes. Working with usability makes it possible to make clear and conscious design decisions that lead to higher quality.
User-centered development versus feature-driven development
In traditional development, development is based on the features required. In user-centered development, development is based on information about users and usage. In user-centered development, there is much more knowledge about the usage much earlier in the project than is customary. This knowledge reduces the risks in the project, for example the risk that implementation errors occur and developers code redundant or unwanted features.
Developing user-centered means applying approaches, knowledge and communication in the different phases from requirements gathering to evaluation of different solutions to design.
During design, the requirements are visualized with the help of prototypes and sketches. Guidelines for the design of the interface is determined during design. The developed solutions are evaluated in usability tests and / or dialogue with end-users. This leads to redesign and improved learning for all participants.
Success factors for user-centered development
Involvement is required of stakeholders, management and clients. Frequent usable deliverables are needed from the project. In an early phase of the work, a deliverance can consist of a bunch of personas.
Later deliveries contain functionality that is usability tested. When requirements are based on usage everyone can participate in discussions. Sketches and processes bridge communication problems.
User-centered development compared with agile development
Agile development is often heavily focused on the design and implementation within the sprint. By adding target group analysis and concept development where end-users participate in various forms in order to identify the usage and benefits, development is shifted to be more user-centered.
Users participating in testing and validation of the system is also a user-centered exercise.
Working user-centered leads to clearer formulated needs. Thanks to visualization and usability tests, it becomes easier to predict usage before implementation. The development will be safer, it will lead to lower costs and guarantees higher uptakes and acceptance among end users!
Here at ReQtest we work user-centered. Our requirements come from support queries and requests which users have made, we often meet and discuss with customers and we usability-test on real customers. In return we often hear that ReQtest is highly usable and extremely receptive to users concerns and wishes, so in the end, everybody is a winner!