Appreciating Usability in Technology
Every week at SproutLoud, we spend a lot of time on usability - how easy is it to use our web-based marketing tools? As we release our next platform in 3.0, how do we improve the functionality we currently have while making it more powerful and user-friendly at the same time. Building something packed with complex functionality while making it "easy-to-use" is often one of our most difficult challenges....and incredibly under-appreciated.
Yesterday, at an awards conference given by the Technology Committee of the Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Keynote Speaker Bill O' Dowd gave a presentation on the new generational differences of technology users. In speaking, Bill noted that great usability is no longer a differentiator, it is an expectation. Whereas older generations may have looked at a complex interface and said "I'm Stupid" for not understanding it, newer generations being brought into this world are saying "it's stupid." In short, technologies that don't perform in usability will not last.
An article by Jared Spool, The $300 Million Button, further illustrates how usability design can impact the success of an application - and why we should appreciate it. A company was experiencing challenges with converting online sales. The sticking point? A form that required the user to login or register to complete their transactions. It was originally designed to 1) make future purchases easier for returning customers and 2) register new customers so that they would not have to register to make a purchase each time they visited the site. The form was designed with user friendly and usability in mind, but customers did not respond well to the form. Repeat customers were bogged down in login, trying to remember User IDs and Passwords to continue their purchases. New customers were not interested in registration – they just wanted to purchase their items. The solution was a button change – replacing the Register button with a Continue button that allowed all customers to skip registration or login and just make their purchases. The results were quick and astounding. Purchasing numbers went up by 45 percent, and the company made an additional $300 million that year after the change.