When businesses buy software, rather than choose the software with the lowest purchase price, they ought to consider the total cost of ownership—including the added productivity and enjoyment that usability and user-experience provide.
Every software company will say “our product is usable,” so how can you prove to prospective customer that you’ve really got usability?
Your product has a usability advantage if:
- Your development team’s motivation is right. Software meets customer business needs if came out of a design and development process that considers stakeholders beyond the development team.
- Trials quickly reveal product effectiveness. In a hands-on trial, you want users to try common tasks, figure them out, and say they liked the experience. A good hands-on trial reduces a competitor’s vendor demo to an infomercial.
- It’s about information more than data. Data requires cognitive transformation in the user’s head to become information. Information is ready now to support insight and appropriate action.
- Change management is minimal. Your mental model is clearly evident and the user experience is pleasant, so resistance to change is lower. Employees will see evidence of leadership rather than another “solution” imposed on them.
- Your training teaches skills. Pick one: training that leads users through a maze (an unusable-interface), or training that teaches users smarter ways to work toward their goals.
- You have metrics. If you tell customers how long it will take new users to start performing, you show your respect for their total cost of ownership.
- You have references. A product reference is as close as a Google search. In a web-2.0 world, your best “reference” could be an engaged, loyal user community.
Incidentally, getting the motivation right is what Five Sketches™ was designed to help development teams to do.
The first 4½ to 5 points, above, require the Development team’s involvement, and the last few benefit from Dev involvement. Clearly, a usability advantage requires the involvement of other departments, directed by a product manager who works the Marketing, Sales, Support, and Development teams in concert. :)
This post was inspired by a Howard Hambrose article in Baseline Magazine, which recommends that IT professionals question software usability before they buy and implement.