Are you Building the Right Thing?

It's Usable, but are we Building the Right Thing?I saw this paper from Dr. Eric Schaffer of Human Factors International entitled “UX Strategy: Let’s Stop Building Usable Wrong Things” and it got me thinking … so often we rush to start a new project and build something wonderful, but did we take a moment to stop and think before we rushed into development? Are we building the right thing? How will this new widget make the target users’ lives better? Will they even use it?

Usability is about more than just making sure that the buttons are in the right place and the language used is understandable to users. Making sure your product follows usability guidelines is good, yes, but it is even better if you take time to research and understand your target users. What are their lives like? What motivates them? Where are their pain points? What kind(s) of technology do they use, when do they use it, and why THAT technology for that thing? What’s really important to them? It’s not much use building a cooking app for smartphones, for example, if most of the people you are building it for don’t have smartphones. You have to address your target users’ deep needs, personally, professionally, emotionally.

All of this signals a need for a User Experience Strategy: not just a usability team or expert that knows which buttons to use and where to put them on the page that is thrown in to make the thing you have decided to build usable. User Experience Strategy is inherently difficult because companies are typically segmented into different functions: you might have a group that builds the web site and another that builds mobile apps and everyone is very protective of their own domain. It has to be driven from the very top level of the organization.

I found Eric’s paper very insightful and useful. I highly recommend it.

Download UX Strategy: Let’s Stop Building Usable Wrong Things from Human Factors International.

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