7 Enterprise Usability Tips


The 7 Enterprise Usability Tips Everybody Knows (but don’t always act on)

There are way more than 7 enterprise usability tips, of course there are! But since I don’t have a really long time to write them all down, and you don’t have a really long time to read them all, then let’s you and I focus on the 7 that can make a difference to an Enterprise, and that way we can get back to the fun stuff, like doing usability! Sound good? Great, let’s get started!

The reality is most of these tips are common sense, and probably quite well-known. However, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the day to day activities of an enterprise, and forget the tips, and more importantly forget to apply them! So with no further ado, here they are!

Enterprise Usability Tip #1 – Your marketing or sales department can be your best friend.
Every marketing or sales department in the world needs more sales or inquiries from their website, always. If you clearly explain how usability efforts can and will make it easier for sales or inquiries to happen, then you’ll have a best friend for life. Always check in with the VP of marketing or sales and ask how things are going, and what’s coming up in the near future. Changes mean an opportunity to conduct usability, and improve performance which means more sales or inquiries.

Enterprise Usability Tip #2 – Usability does NOT have to be expensive.
Guess what? Usability testing and analysis does not need to be expensive. Yes, there does need to be professionals at work, but no, it doesn’t require massive amounts of money. There are simple and effective ways to conduct low-cost usability testing. Probably the cheapest and most efficient way to gather critical usability feedback is through paper wire-frames. Penny-pinching can be done by recruiting participants via Craigslist. Card sorts can be done with 3×5 index cards. Basic prototype testing can be done with simple html mock-ups. With a mobile wifi card and internet access through your laptop, you can conduct usability testing almost anywhere, no need for an expensive lab. ‘Nuff said?

Enterprise Usability Tip #3 – Usability does NOT have to be labor-intensive.
You don’t need a team of 20 flunkies and your own personal Barista to conduct usability testing or analysis. A usability practitioner, a piece of paper, and a participant are enough. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Enterprise Usability Tip #4 – Usability has NO boundaries.
We live in the marvelous electronic age where all of us can be connected instantly. I can talk to you if you’re in Nome, Alaska, or Rome, Italy. Remote usability testing allows global access to anybody who’s connected to the internet. Unlike manufacturing, usability has no walls, no boundaries, and can be performed almost anywhere with almost anyone (that fits your Persona that is). How great is usability?!

Enterprise Usability Tip #5 – Usability can be FAST.
More than likely the phrase “We can’t afford the time to do usability testing, we’re on a tight schedule” has been used. Guess what? That’s just not true, darn-it! Usability done correctly does require some fore-thought and planning, but compared to creating a 100 page Business Requirements Document or detailed Use Cases, creating usability testing protocols is way, way faster. Recruiting and testing can be done very quickly too. There’s no reason why a complete test plan, recruitment, testing and analysis cannot happen in 2 weeks. Sound impossible? It’s not! I’ve done it many, many times. Usability testing and analysis can be conducted concurrently to development. Compare that to the time and energy it takes to “fix” post release mistakes, and usability pays for itself ten-fold. Let’s not hear any of that “takes too long” stuff, okay?

Enterprise Usability Tip #6 – Usability doesn’t always work.
Ummm, but that’s a negative, why is that in here you may be asking? The truth is usability is only as good as the practitioner that conducts the test or analysis. If someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing is handling usability, then it most likely won’t work. Questionable practitioners are out there, and even with the pros sometimes the wrong test is used, or the wrong Persona is tested. There’s a well-known series of Comparative Usability Evaluations (I’m thinking specifically of CUE-4 conducted by Molich, Jeffries and Dumas) that demonstrated that no two usability practitioner groups use the exact same test methods to evaluate a website. Worse, the evaluations varied widely in terms of number of issues found, and recommendations for improvements. Usability testing is half art, half science. That means usability may not always work the way it’s intended to. Be careful when touting usability, methods vary, and there is no one clear and consistent way to always obtain the best results. Just remember that nobody’s perfect, and mistakes, sometimes bad ones, can happen. Set expectations carefully.

Enterprise Usability Secret #7 – There’s more than enough work to go around.
I don’t know of a single Enterprise that has exhausted all potential usability projects. The more an enterprise relies on employee and customer web applications, the more usability projects there are. You can probably find at least 10 usability projects in your intranet alone, and enough potential savings to pay for a host of studies. The implication here is there’s no reason to not get out there and promote and conduct usability to improve the experience.

Conclusion – There’s plenty of enterprise usability tips

I suppose there’s nothing earth-shaking or amazingly new about these seven secrets. But the reality is most enterprise usability practitioners need the occasional reminder that there are multiple ways to conduct usability, and by reminding yourself of these secrets you may be better positioned to take advantage of usability, and help your enterprise succeed.

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Do you have other usability tips you would like to share? Send a comment now and add your thoughts!

So what are your enterprise usability tips?