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Why would anyone plan on making their product unusable? Still, so many companies are guilty of it. From unyielding packaging to tiny instructional text, unusable things exist all around us. With that said, in this post I will detail four reasons that should deter you from committing a usability sin.
You’ll lose business.
Sometimes the truth hurts. In essence, it appears that this seems to be the nail in the coffin for some retail chains. Websites like www.theconsumerist.com highlight emotionally-charged stories from angry consumers frustrated at retail stores. Enough is enough.
It’s no wonder that Consumer Reports reported a year ago that people would have an easier time finding a good deal on the digital camera they wanted online (among other gifts), rather than drive to their local mall. How can businesses compete? Online stores give you convenience, cost less to maintain, and give you the ability to read reviews and share your experience. Online shopping elevates the retail experience.
So my question to retail chains is: what gives? You have the tools at your disposal to make local shopping infinitely more pleasurable. There are tons of ways to cut costs and keep customers satisfied. Why has it taken so long for companies to catch up? Why does Borders still charge up to 50% more than the cost of a book on Amazon?
The bottom line: if your business or product makes things easier and more efficient for people, customers will be buying it in droves.
Your message will become mixed
Nothing hurts a brand worse than damaging trust. When a potential customer is taking a look at your product or service, they are making all sorts of judgments (some of them subconscious) of your work. Why was the logo clickable on this page but not on that one? Why is there an advertisement taking over my webpage? How do they expect me to click that if it’s moving? Who do these guys think they are?
Indeed, who do you think you are, really? If you’re a professional web-development firm, then present yourself as such. If your product or service is designed to help me find things, then enable me: let me tell you what I’m looking for and let’s move on.
Never forget that your primary purpose in designing interactions is to help the user accomplish something. It may seem like something you would never forget, but I can’t begin to count the number of times I have visited a website, poked around, clicked a couple of links, and left in confusion. Don’t let your flashy graphics, unique styles, or wild verbiage get in the the way of your message. Be short and to the point. The primary purpose of design is to communicate what you do, who you do it for, and then help users do it.
You will have to address the wrong problems
If your product has lackluster documentation, you’ll be stuck answering questions via comments, forums, or some other medium. By then, things have already deteriorated. If a customer is having to ask for help, they are letting you know of two distinct (but related) problems: a frustrated customer, and a less-than-usable product. Think about it this way: if a website or service is easy-to-use and intuitive, you’ll save time and money. For this reason, companies like 37 Signals include things like “blank slates.”
Blank slates are just one tool to get users up-to-speed on how your product operates. If you’re in a position to design a user’s interaction of your site, consider providing documentation within the product’s interface – things like instructional videos, helpful tool-tips, and blank slates will make your product speak for itself.
You’ll become Microsoft
Yes, I said it. But then again, who wouldn’t want to be a company with the kind of clout Microsoft has?
But think about how Microsoft has fumbled over the past couple of years. With products like the Zune, Windows Mobile, and Windows Vista, Microsoft has hit a brick wall. What’s more, these walls are in market segments they would easily have dominated years ago. The brand of Microsoft will forever be tainted by these blunders.
Apple has demonstrated that they have the upper hand in Interaction Design, User Experience and Industrial Design.
Further still, Microsoft’s biggest competitor, Apple, has demonstrated that they have the upper hand in Interaction Design, User Experience and Industrial Design. Think about the various ways Apple is sitting pretty right now with unprecedented success: iPhone, iTunes, iPod, and Mac. However, if you look at each of these products, you’ll see great attention to the details that make user experiences better–from the moment you unwrap your iPhone, you’ll fall in love with it.
There are many more reasons than this to pay attention to the human aspect of your projects. I know I’m not alone in feeling frustrated by poorly designed interfaces. Sometimes messing up something as simple as a login form is enough to lose my business. But that’s my opinion. What do you think are the consequences of poor interaction design?