Friday, November 17, 2006

USABILITY, WHAT THE HECK?

14 Nov was billed as World Usability Day.(In India, it has traditionally been celebrated as Children's Day). So what exactly is the big noise about Usability.

Ever come across a gadget you had to struggle to make use of? Or, a door lock that you had to struggle to open because the lock system was so complex? Or, a TV remote that refused to help? Or, the car fob with so many buttons that you do not know all the functions. Well, in the words of World Usability Day website it is all about 'making life easy'. Succintly capturing the dilemna, it says:

"Why doesn't this work right? What am I supposed to do with this now?"

Usability, undoubtably, is something that affects us in our daily lives. It is about user experience in using a product, rather, the ease of it. Imagine,your cousin gifted you a new mobile but you found navigation so clumsy that you had to put it back in the box and started using the old one.

As products get more complex and manufacturers come under pressure to include more and more features, usability tends to become an issue. An arguable opinion is that usability tends to become an issue more often when incremental feature additions are done, rather than in products that are designed from scratch.

Usability affects us in so many different ways that a bunch of professionals calling themselves Usability Professionals have started a movement.They want to develop a scientific opinion on this subject and even want to come up with a 'Body of Knowledge', a comprehensive reference, something that exits for project management as well as for business analyst professionals. They even have a website that has great resources, right from the basic definition to stuff on user centred design, events etc. A logical question to arise would be , what is ergonomics then? Well, in my opinion, ergonomics is about comfort, and usability is about ease of use. Maybe they are first cousins.

I also learnt about an event in Hyderabad held on this subject. Some examples from usability perspective) of bad designs are posted on their site. They even had a Boycott Bad Design Contest in which common folks like us were invited to submit nominations for things that are bad in design. The winners are yet to be announced, but all the nominations(with visuals) can be seen here.

My take on usability is , again, arguably, as follows. The product should be designed like Google. Complex from the inside, simple from the outside and yet appear inviting. You can never have enough of such products. What is your take?
Test

5 comments:

Sara said...

I think things can be most usable if they stay what they are- a cellphone shud remain that, not try to be a TV!!

Anonymous said...

nice post... also on a subject thats close to my heart...

yes your example of google is apt...are there sites, interesting links on the subject... share!

RAJESH KUMAR said...

@ Sara: Yes, pretence, even for devices is bad :)
@ Manish: All the words in colour on this post are links, do check out by clicking those.

Manish said...

You have a nice blog . i liked ur post especially about blog meet in chennai & that statcounter thing.

I have constantly analysed the data on my site but somehow the results are not accurate with respect to the location of the visitor.

so u were in SAIL for some time ! When was that ?

RAJESH KUMAR said...

@ Thanks Manish for stopping, yes, location tracking is not perfect and has to be seen in aggregate. My SAIL details are in your mailbox already, but in short, I was with RSP 1995-96 as MT(Tech).