In this internetworked world, increasingly large percentages of the population rely on the digital realms to connect with others, do their jobs, pursue their interests and passions, manage many aspects of their daily lives, and learn. The man-machine interface has become a ubiquitous aspect of so much of what we need to accomplish, every day.
It’s time we took this art and science to the next level. The user experience on our computers, mobile devices, appliances, cars, and toys need a better, more rigorous approach to verifying that they deliver on the goods, that normal people can perform basic tasks.
When you use interactive systems – or more importantly, if you design, sell, manage, or are otherwise responsible for the interactive systems used by businesses, government, the public, and education – ask yourself these questions the next time you log on:
Is this sytem easy to use? Can I find what I want? Is the navigation clear? Am I going in circles, and how many clicks does it takes to find or access what I’m looking for?
Is this system useful? Does it provide anything relevant, anything that I’m interested in? Would I stay here, and would I come back? Remember: “usable” and “useful” are two very separate characteristics.
Does it work? Are links functional, do all the images load, or does it crash or lock up or otherwise break?
To design systems that meet these criteria – and there are several more criteria that should be considered – requires a rigorous understanding of the users, what they want or need to accomplish, and what features and functions will provide those. And the only way to know for sure that the systems are delivering on these essentials is to test, test, test, with real people.