Giving the Human Touch to Software

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Seek an Expert’s Assistance

If your company is serious about usability and management is ready to throw money at acquiring resources for usability optimization, then consider outsourcing human-factors specialists (HFS) for large-scale projects.

A human-factors specialist designs the user experience in a way that optimizes speed, accuracy, and satisfaction. The usability firm may also provide strategic planning for the institutionalization of a user-centered design process. They can also contribute to usability assessment or implementation. Usability contractors provide a set of services that make development groups more successful.

These include

  1. expert review of existing designs based on ergonomic research
  2. design of user interface structures based on user needs and perspective
  3. development of user interface standards
  4. detailed design and specification of the user interface
  5. usability testing

Training Is No Remedy for Poor UsabilityOne preconceived notion about traditional desktop software is that the users can always be trained to put up with the usability drawbacks of the system. All too often, users are trained to use awkward workarounds that mask usability inadequacies.

Superficially, this appears to be a cost-effective short-term fix—until the consequences of these restrictive workarounds surface. Expecting users to adapt to usability deficiencies costs users a lot in terms of time and money; and costs the software vendor in terms of reputation and corporate image, and ultimately has a negative business impact.

>Attention to usability early in the development lifecycle can save you, before you sink a lot of work into software that the user won’t like. Usability should be considered early and validated before release to the market. The attitude that usability is more of an optimization issue than a necessity of the design can be a bottleneck in the product.

Getting to know the people will help determine more thorough and accurate user expectations. That’s the best way to make the user happy. Don’t make the mistake I made. Knowing the tasks that the application will be required to handle may not be enough to ensure good user requirements.

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank Dr. Eric Schaffer (Founder and CEO of Human Factors International) for sharing his expertise in this specialized domain and providing me with all the information that I required regarding human-factors specialists. I also owe a special thanks to Mahesh Menon, Business Manager, HFI (Asia) for directing me to the right people.

User Comments

1 comment
Alexandra Belousova's picture
Alexandra Belousova

It's obviously very important to be able to look at the project by your customer's eyes. Something that seems perfect for you can be seen absolutely unacceptable for them. All trusted software development companies develop projects according to their customers' needs, and Belitsoft (Belitsoft.com) also does the same.

March 4, 2013 - 6:16am

About the author

Yogita Sahoo's picture Yogita Sahoo

Yogita works as a QA/testing professional with Mindfire Solutions and has written a number of articles on QA and testing strategies. Yogita is currently exploring thoughts of beauty as an area of testing and its relation to usability. Her role at Mindfire has been to implement quality processes throughout the organization and build a dedicated testing team. Yogita can be reached at yogitas@mindfiresolutions.com.

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