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What is usability?

Donna Maurer has written a nice overview of what usability is


  • The article What is usability? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 03, 2004

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See also: The design process (24)  Primers (14) 



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 Open link in new window

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 "


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 Open link in new window

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.



  • The article A User-Centred Approach to Selling Information Architecture Open link in new window

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 Open link in new window

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 (11) 



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... Open link in new window

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 Open link in new window

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

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Spanking Jakob Nielsen

"The purpose of this article is to critically review Jakob Nielsen's article, Intranet Usability: The Trillion-Dollar Question. In summary, Jakob Nielsen makes some fantastic claims about intranet usability that must be weighed against other business needs and constraints. For example, there might be better ways to spend money than on usability, not all usability improvements are created equal, and it can be hard to apply the changes dictated by a usability study. The criticisms can be applied to many other usability articles" A very good analysis of Nielsen's article, "Intranet Usability: The Trillion-Dollar Question"


  • Spanking Jakob Nielsen Open link in new window
  • Intranet Usability: The Trillion-Dollar Question Open link in new window

Ron Zeno - November 11, 2002

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