Conduct Usability Evaluations to Ensure Your Solution is Easy to Use

Once you have validated the workflow meets the customer and user needs, evaluate the tasks to ensure that they are easy to complete. Usability evaluation assesses the degree to which the system can be operated by its users, the efficiency of the solution and satisfaction. These evaluations validate that the tasks are easy to complete—a test of the ease-of-use of the application, not the intelligence of the users. If the tasks are hard or impossible to complete then the system is not easy to use.

In today’s enterprise software market, applications need to be easy to use. Good technology is ubiquitous or invisible. Customers and users have come to expect easy-to-use solutions. In today’s mature software market where the technological solutions are similar, usability is an important differentiator when considering a purchase as important as an enterprise solution.

Pre-development usability evaluation

There is a one to one hundred dollar return-on-investment (ROI) for correcting usability issues prior to development. Eighty percent of the issues can be identified by evaluating it with as few as three iterations with five users. Conduct the evaluation on workflows and tasks that the customers and users determined to be most critical. Measure the efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction by time on task; completion of task; and expected and actual perceived easiness of the task. Seventy percent completion of tasks for first-time users with little or no instruction is a pass rate by software industry standards.

Correct any issues in the design releases from iteration to iteration. Document the evaluation in a report that explains who participated in the evaluation, what was evaluated, how it was measured, the findings, and recommendations based on the findings. Use these findings and recommendations to determine the final design, and develop design specifications for Development.

Post-release usability evaluation

After the solution has been in production for six to eight weeks, conduct a follow-up usability evaluation to ensure that all the issues have been properly addressed and measure your usability ROI. For example, if you knew the number of service calls associated with a particular task in the previous release, measure it now with the new release. Multiply the number of call reductions by the cost of a call to calculate the actual dollars saved by this design.

Document your ROI and any other issues that may have been discovered that you can incorporate in your next design solution.

This blog series is based on the article Easy to Use for Whom: Defining the Customer and User Experience for Enterprise Software