It’s 2014! Are We Still Talking About Usability and Technology?

Posted by Julia Kedward, Product Manager

January 6, 2014; 8:31 AM

flying-saucer2_316x161_RGB_72dpiYou would think, by now, aliens from a futuristic world would’ve landed to show us how things are really done, and we could forego what seems like the can’t-kill topic of technology and usability.

But, alas, here we are to fend for ourselves in an age when technology changes between wishing your kids good night to wishing them good morning.

We talk about this on at least a weekly basis at work, as product development ebbs and flows. What does it mean for something to be “user-friendly,” anyway? Developers and designers typically know the basics, but the user always has something different in mind. No matter how you design a product or how you envisioned it to be used, the user figures out some way to break that image. And that’s not always a bad thing.

The trick is how to bring both of these worlds together — designer and user — so we account for the bulk of expected, and even unexpected, usability during a product’s development. That which we know now enables us to create a better product and keeps us from answering those uncomfortable, post-launch questions with “No, the product doesn’t do that” or “Yes, we understand, and that feature will be available in a few months.” Yikes!

So here I am, sitting at my desk, mulling over the various new projects that are either in development or soon will be, if we can edge out some room on our overcrowded plates. How do we reach the users now to get input; what types of users do we target; how do the users communicate their expectations to us? All are questions that need answering. And, in this day and age (the age where aliens have not yet visited), they’re more complicated questions with the introduction of ever more smartphones and tablets in a world that expects instant feedback, responsiveness, and reliability.

I know you’re reading to the end because you think I have the magic answer. Well, I don’t have a magic answer. No one does. What I do have are ways to go about tackling these elusive answers. Stay tuned for upcoming posts that will tell you the things I’ve learned over the years — good and bad — and the things I’ll be trying and how those are working out. Perhaps you’ll share some wisdom with me as well.

Cheers for now.