Here are two usability stories that are currently underway.
The first project
This weekend I got a Skype call from a usability consultant at a very large firm that is, in turn, working on a project for a very large insurance company. The usability consultant was just assigned, but the team is nearly finished building an online application form for household insurance. He told me:
- The design is due Friday. Developers will start building it on Monday.
- The design is restricted by a related piece of the site that’s already being built (offshore).
- Customers must answer potentially hundreds of questions, and the company wants every answer cumulatively displayed on screen. It’s not clear why, so designing alternatives means shooting in the dark.
- Customers must provide their complete personal and confidential identification-before they get a quote or decide whether to buy. It’s not clear why.
- After answering all questions and providing personal information, many customers will be deemed ineligible to buy insurance online, due to answers that sounded innocuous to me.
- There’s no time to test the design by Friday.
The second project
Today I spoke to a manager at a different company. Their current project is software that makes work schedules. So far, the team has:
- Asked users for problems in the current product.
- Weighed the severity and frequency of user problems. The worst problems related to starting a new schedule, figuring out where to enter data, and understanding how the data and settings influence the schedule.
- The worst problems became top priority in the current project.
- A major GUI redesign is underway. This includes step-by-step workflow support, drag-and-drop interaction, and replacing data-entry spreadsheets with dialog boxes or task panes.
- The product manager wants usability testing done on the redesigned GUI, while there’s still time to make changes.
What can you do to ensure your projects are like the one in the second story?