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Strategic Versus Tactical Usability Engineering

 

Usability Engineering can be strategic and tactical.  Scott Berkun differentiates strategic and tactical usability engineering as:

Tactical use of usability engineering is responsive and isolated, focusing on adjustments to existing designs, often late in the schedule.  Strategic use of usability or user research is proactive and integrated, [enhancing] decision making at many levels of project and business planning.

In New Zealand, usability engineering is beginning to emerge as a product development ‘must have’, but unfortunately it is still typically at the tactical level.  For some of our clients, the real disadvantage to incorporating a usability engineering method (usability testing, for example) late in the development schedule is that important user experience and usability data is discovered too late.  If strategically identified earlier, through good user requirements gathering and elicitation, and user-centred design and evaluation then design decisions and development techniques may have been better informed. 

Further, we frequently discover that after testing a ‘nearly completed product’ with users, most clients do not have the necessary time or budgets to make the larger strategic and most important changes to their products.  Instead they can only really focus on the less important but ‘easier to fix’ usability problems before deployment. We find that the strategic fixes must then be incorporated in later product versions, which typically come to the market one to three years later – often too late for the users and sometimes to the advantage of competitors. 

Usability as a Strategy

New Zealand has innovative organisations, such as Telecom, Navman NZ and Tait Electronics - Radio Communications, who have adopted usability as a strategy.  These companies typically describe usability or customer satisfaction as goal within their vision documents and specifications.  Meeting these types of goals requires relevant planning, user discovery, design and evaluation practices to fulfill them. 

For more information about how to strategically incorporate usability into your product development cycle please contact Kirsten Thomson.

Contact: Kirsten Thomson

Email: usability@cs.waikato.ac.nz

Phone: +6478585116

 

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