Usability in Software Products

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Summary:

The concept of usability and why it is an important part of any software project is discussed. The author ties usability into every phase of the software lifecycle, and by doing so proves you can build user-friendly applications.

Introduction
In today’s world software companies face increasing challenges, if they need to fulfill requirements as per customer needs/demands and also up to their satisfaction. In the past software organizations were developing products by giving importance to the feature implementation and least regarding how simple it is to use. But, in the present situation there is heavy competition due to availability of similar products or services and this continues to increase in future too. Any software organization or product can sustain only if the offerings are outstanding in all respects when compared with others.

Customers in today's world want to be pampered with the best of features and qualities in any software. A user today is very much aware and choosy about what exactly he wants to see in the software and not ready to compromise on any inadequacies. Due to which, the sense lies in delivering software with ever-higher levels of functionality, reliability, responsiveness, usebility, performance and also beauty.

User operations are steadily increasing and product purchases are increasing based on usability. The goal is to adapt software to user's actual work styles, rather than forcing users to adapt their work style to the software. In order to sustain in the present competitive environment it is critical that every user software interaction must generate positive customer experience. User experience is of high importance; to be successful, software need to eliminate user discomfort. But it's unfortunate that UI design is still considered a secondary in the development life cycle of many software products. When developing completely new solutions to customer problems, it is very much necessary to bring the users along in the development process. This is the only way to fully explore the new opportunities occurring as development proceeds. To achieve an efficient development process, cross-functional teams are formed to support the iterative process. The teams include end users & people from implementation, documentation & testing are given the total responsibility for the total quality of the development feature. In the industries, it is widely accepted that quality has to be built, not tested into a product.

This paper discusses the concept of usability & why it should be an important part of any software project. How it can be fit-in at every phase of software life cycle, so as to achieve a user-friendly application.

Usability Basics:
What is usability?
Usability is the measure of the quality of a user's experience when interfacing with a product or system.

Usability applies to every aspect of a product with which a person interacts Hardware, Software, menus, icons, messages, documentation, training & online help. Every design & development decision made throughout the product cycle has an impact on that product's usability. A useful product

  • Is easy to learn
  • Is efficient to use
  • Provide quick recovery from errors/li>
  • Is easy to remember
  • Is visually pleasing

As customers depend more & more on software to get their jobs done, usability can be the critical factor that your applications will be used.

Why usability is important?

  • To reduce the number of support calls from users
  • Poor usability is a major reason why users call software technical support lines
  • Charging users for support increases potential dissatisfaction with the product
  • Usability testing helps improve user acceptance
  • Usability can help differentiate your product from those of your competitors
  • If two products are substantially equal in utility the product with more usability will probably be regarded as superior
  • Small differences in usability can have a big effect on user preference
  • Finally remember that every product gets tested for usability eventually. Users perform usability testing on your product every time

Pages

About the author

Ananda Giri's picture Ananda Giri

Ananda Giri has more than nine years of experience in all phases of software testing in both project and product based firms. Ananda currently works for Novell Software Development, in Bangalore, India.

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