Who should be responsible for a project’s usability?

16 December 2013
By Elena Voronina, QA Engineer

Every year, UX, design and interface designers are becoming more and more sought after. After all, they are the key to creating user-friendly mobile, desktop and web applications.

Most people today agree that usability is one of the most important parts in the development of a successful and competitive product, which is why nearly every project pays quite a bit of attention to this.

Nevertheless, the mysterious usability specialist still raises a lot of eyebrows. Why do you need a separate specialist? Are they worth their salaries? Can’t a team of professional developers do without them?

Depending on who is responsible for usability in a project, they can be divided into two types:

  1. Projects with a UX specialist;
  2. Projects without one, where another team member is responsible for usability.

Projects with a UX specialist

There are several possibilities here as well.

  1. A usability expert can be temporarily hired to conduct some sort of research, for example, a customer preference analysis, the design and evaluation of interfaces, usability testing with the target audience, etc. The specialist can be provided by the developer company, or, for example, the client.

    Pros:

    • The study will be as independent as possible and as such specialists are mostly unbiased.
    • The work will be carried out by experienced, well-trained specialists.

    Cons:

    • Such specialists often appear in a project closer to the end of the development process, make a quick usability audit and propose changes, sometimes quite large ones. Usually, these ideas are met without much enthusiasm and it’s easy to understand why; the project is like a child to the developers and few are prepared to listen to criticisms from outsiders. And so the comments are usually only accepted half-heartedly.
    • A temporary usability expert can’t know all of a project’s nuances.
  2. A UX specialist or even a group of them (for example, an analyst, designer and tester), which work on a project from the start.

    Pros:

    • The work will be carried out by experienced, well-trained specialists, which will be part of the project just as much as every other team member. This is quite realistic for Agile projects. The UX specialists’ research should be 1 – 2 iterations ahead of the team’s progress. In this case, when the developers start work on the next iteration, they will know what the users of the system want from them and can treat usability enhancements as full-fledged tasks that need to be completed as part of the iterations.

    Cons:

    • The main disadvantage is the price. The budget will have to be extended to accommodate for another specialist, or even several.

Projects without a UX specialist

A UX specialist working on the project is, of course, the best-case scenario. The biggest plus is that the designers’, programmers’ and business analysts’ work is evaluated by someone else, especially since that someone’s point of view is based on the users’ preferences. This positively impacts the quality and usability of the project as it grows.

However, as is all too common, there are no UX specialists, either because of a small budget, or the need for them is just too small. System administration programs are an example, since they are closed to the general public and do not depend on their usability to raise demand and profitability.

  1. The usability specialist can be a designer:

    Pros:

    • The designer is familiar with graphics editors and can probably quickly finish with their interface design work ahead of the rest of iteration work. If they can also pay attention to the users’ needs, there is the possibility that the product will turn out to be attractive and fairly convenient.

    Cons:

    • Even the most talented designer’s ideas aren’t always too practical. A designer is primarily an artist and considers the design part of the website’s style and aesthetics. His wishes and those of the users are probably not in alignment. The attractiveness and usability of a website sadly do not always coincide.
    • It is difficult to judge the usability of your own website.
  2. The usability specialist can be a business analyst responsible for the formation of the requirements:

    Pros:

    • By combining the roles of a business analyst and UX specialist, the BA can create very objective requirements, which take into account the wishes of the client and interface convenience.
    • They usually know the target audience quite well and can understand their needs.

    Cons:

    • Confusion may arise between business requirements and user requirements. Specifications created by BAs should be business requirements first and everything else second.
    • It’s hard for a BA to judge their own work – drawing up requirements – from a user’s point of view.
    • The BA seldom has time to conduct the practical research a usability expert should.
  3. The usability specialist can be a QA specialist

    Pros:

    • QAs can become UX specialists, since they are the main users of the system – they know what functionality is implemented successfully, and what isn’t.
    • Product usability can be considered a component of QA work.

    Cons:

    • Can really distract QAs from their main responsibilities – testing functionality. Small Agile projects usually have a single QA and it’s hard to do everything as it is. The priority should still be functionality, otherwise, usability improvements can actually hinder the project.
    • Despite the fact that the QA is the system’s most knowledgeable user and knows all of its positive and negative sides, with time, they become used to even flawed functionality and can miss some serious usability problems.
  4. Programmers. It’s difficult to imagine a Programmer-UX. The time for completing tasks is always limited and work is carried out strictly in accordance with the requirements. But the biggest minus isn’t the lack of time, it’s that coders have a hard time thinking from a user’s perspective.

    Nevertheless, it’s possible to find a creative approach to any task and think about how easy it will be to use your added functionality, offer alternative solutions and interesting features. Obviously, no one is interested in creating extra work for themselves, bit reimbursing people for their time can make sure even programmers become interested in usability.

  5. Project Managers. For small projects, PMs are usually also business analysts and responsible for fulfilling the client’s requirements, know the project’s target audience, draw markups and prototypes, suggest new ideas to enhance the interface. Someone like that can make a real impact on a project’s usability. The main minus is the lack of time. It is unlikely, that a project manager can find the time to meet with users and test interfaces.

Conclusion

Whether your project has a UX specialist or not, you should always take the time to enhance your website or mobile application’s usability – Something is always better than nothing. A team that allocates just a little time and effort to this will always come out ahead – avoid large expenses in the future and the completed project will receive high praise from the client.

View this article on Business2community

Other usability articles:

Tags:


Add Comment

Name Mail Website Comment