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User-centred design cuts support calls by 90%

Here's a great case on how prototyping and early involvement of users pays off. Because McAfee made user interface design of their ProtectionPilot a prime directive, they ended up with a great product and received approximately one-tenth of the support calls that the company would expect.

The article lists 23 tips gleaned from McAfee and their design team.


  • Clean, cutting-edge UI design cuts McAfee's support calls by 90%

Henrik Olsen - October 17, 2005 - via Dey Alexander

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See also: Cases and Examples (12)  Wireframing and prototyping (29)  Usability testing (28) 



What is usability?

Donna Maurer has written a nice overview of what usability is – and what it's not. She outlines the process used during a user-centred development project and defines the qualities of usable systems.

To Maurer, the primary disadvantages of user-hostile systems are:
- If the system is difficult to use, people won't use it
- If people have to use a difficult system, they will do so as little as possible
- People will waste time
- More support is necessary
- A user-hostile system is likely to require changes


  • The article What is usability?

Henrik Olsen - November 03, 2004

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See also: The design process (14)  Primers (8) 



Design pays off big time

Evidence for the link between shareholder return and investment in design has been scarce and anecdotal. An analysis of the British stock market has shown that companies that invest effectively in design, have outperformed the rest of the stock marked by 200%.


  • The article The Impact of Design on Stock Market Performance

Henrik Olsen - May 04, 2004

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Critique of Nielsen/Normann Group's report Usability Return on Investment

Peter Merholtz and Scott Hirsch take a closer look at Nielsen/Normann Group's report Usability Return on Investment. Though a number of the cases in the report are solid and the report provides some valuable usability metrics, Merholtz and Hirsch states that the methodologies used are so fundamentally flawed that "…any financial analyst worth her salt would immediately question its findings".

"…the report hints at linkages between usability metrics and financial returns without providing any real detailed analysis of how this was done in the individual cases or offering any guidelines for addressing, this challenge at your business".

Combining learnings from Nielsen/Normann report, Aaron Marcus' report Return on Investment for Usable User-Interface Design, and their own experience, Merholtz and Hirsch suggest how to better ascribe financial results to user experience design.


Henrik Olsen - August 03, 2003

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Convincing clients to pay for usability

Jakob Nielsen on how to convince clients to pay for usability:

"Consider software programming as an analogy: If you hired developers to code a piece of custom software and they claimed that there was no reason to debug the code, you would think they were crazy."

"Modern user interfaces are just as complex as software in terms of the number of different variables we combine. More importantly, 20 years of usability engineering experience have shown that it's impossible to design the perfect user interface on the first try."

"One answer to the question of how to get clients to pay for usability is to include it in the overall price rather than charge extra."

"Ultimately, the real answer to getting clients to pay for user testing and other user-centered design methods is to point out usability's astounding return on investment."


  • The article Convincing Clients to Pay for Usability

Henrik Olsen - May 19, 2003 - via Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox

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A User-Centred Approach to Selling Information Architecture

According to Jeff Lash, people selling information architecture should focus on how to solve clients' problems instead of showing all of the dozens of techniques that are possible.

"…people want things that will lead to increased revenue or decreased cost. Having a Web site, and having information architecture involved in that Web site, is just a means to an end."

"…find out what their goals are, see what needs to be done to reach those goals, and then determine what IA techniques can help them reach those goals."


  • The article A User-Centred Approach to Selling Information Architecture

Henrik Olsen - February 26, 2003

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Selling IA and UCD

The most common approach to selling IA involves introducing the basic concepts, along with explanations and examples of what deliverables are produced, and some discussion of the benefits. At that point, usually the client will comment, or ask about how these procedures can fit in to a specific project.

This is antithetical to the mantra of user-centered design, which says that the needs of the user should be understood before the design begins. How can one design a sales approach before understanding the needs of the client? The proper approach should be to figure out what the goals and needs of the client are before ever starting to try and sell Information Architecture as a possible solution.


  • A User-Centered Approach to Selling Information Architecture

Nick Finck - February 23, 2003

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Usability Gurus ranted

Charles L. Mauro rants the "Guru approach" to usability consulting:

"Often the usability Guru approach takes the form of a well-orchestrated exorcism. Beating the bad usability spirits out of the web site by a constant and highly negative critique of the current site and of course by association the development team. The ferocity of such exorcisms is sometimes directly related to the size of the consulting fee: the higher the fee the more aggressive the critique."


Henrik Olsen - January 21, 2003

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See also: Expert reviews (6) 



Usability testing and return on investment

A white paper from MauroNewMedia discusses return on investment (ROI) implications for integrating formal usability testing methods into web development projects, and compares online and traditional lab-based approaches for their respective strengths and weaknesses.

The white paper provides an in-depth evaluation of current online usability testing methods, such as surveys and monitoring customer behaviour. It also includes a comprehensive trade-off matrix comparing the different usability testing approaches and research benefits.


  • The white paper Professional usability testing and return on investment...

Henrik Olsen - January 15, 2003

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Return on Investment for Usability

Through an extensive study, Jakob Nielsen found that usability redesigns increase usability by 135% on average, while intranets improve slightly less.

Based on data from 863 design projects and findings from other studies, Nielsen concludes that current best practice call for devoting about 10% of a project's budget to usability.

He also found that the cost of usability doesn't increase linearly with project size. A project that's ten times bigger, for example, typically requires only four times more usability spending.


  • The article Return on Investment for Usability

Henrik Olsen - January 08, 2003 - via Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox Announcement List

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