In a blog entry from his WebWord, on 11/16, he wrote:
Usability is an Island
I think it is funny, ironic really, that most usability specialists never talk to designers or developers. They preach, they write, the moan. But, they don't get up and talk to designers and developers. Until usability folks weave themselves into the fabric of the development process, the power of usability will be lost. Until the language of developers and designers meets up with the language of usability specialists, it'll be horses talking to pigs.
Thank goodness I was trained in usability surrounded by designers and programmers and got to literally sit with them during meetings and actual coding. This kind of experience has saved my butt more than I can say, because I had to understand what they do, to do what I do better.
The other thing that's been on my mind for a few months is the disconnect between the pros, and their articles, blogs, and books, and the small businesses that come to me for help. I'd venture to say many small businesses don't read usability or human factors stuff because most of its buried in academic circles and organizations. Fact is, a lot of the time the pros write in terms I struggle to understand, esp. when they get into debates.
I can clearly see, in my usability testing work, that small and medium businesses want more than design help (how does my site look?). They know, on some level, that their sites aren't converting. Many of them have fantastic products, and the basics of design are covered. Others, though, are using old style design things like textured backgrounds and animated banners. They're still designing for themselves, not their end users or customers.
Many aren't aware they're even doing this, or are in denial.
It's interesting to talk to them. They refer to "my webmaster" and I learn they believed their web master knew everything from design, to SEO, to user centered design. It's a shock when they learn this isn't always so. Most of them have never heard of "conversions". They just know their sites "aren't selling". This is their terminology.
I think John has hit on something that's overlooked. Communicating with teams and clients. Finding common language. Understanding needs. Confronting truths. Getting the right messages to the right people.
Designers and developers need to understand that the business needs usability to survive and thrive. It is a competitive advantage, but designers and developers will ignore it until management makes it clear that products are too hard to use.
I've seen it work in a corporate environment. It wasn't easy though. Getting everyone on the same page, and accepting that usability is critical to the long term success of any software app or web design...one of my co-workers hated me so much she would avoid me in the hallways. This was because I went from being a designer, to a usability tester. This is not an easy job :shock:
But I'm more concerned with the startups and small/med businesses with web sites. I spoke with a gentleman yesterday on the phone about his web site. It's not converting. From a design standpoint, it's attractive, well laid out, and functional. His webmaster is quite talented. The application that is the main thrust of the site had very few defects, and none were critical (it allows customers to design and order his product on line.)
But, the site itself didn't sell the idea of what he was trying to present. He claims most people leave as soon as they get to the homepage, regardless of how nice it looks.
Usability knowledge has increased and there are some great tools available, but the problem is that the knowledge and tools aren't getting into the hands of designers and developers.
Yes. I'm seeing this too.
So, how do we get this knowledge out to those who really want and need it?