In recent years there has been a shift in the focus of digital transformation
The design and implementation of new technology used to be driven by saving costs and efficiencies. Now, the focus has changed. Improving efficiency is still critical, but customer and employee experience has also become a priority.
Technology is part of our everyday lives – at work and at home, even while shopping – we have become increasingly tech savvy and seek the best experience with technology whether we’re using it for business or pleasure.
People have little patience now for clunky, old-fashioned interfaces or process journeys that aren’t easily understood in an instinctive, unconscious way. They want accessible and seamless technology that achieves specific results efficiently and effectively. Put simply, if they can’t do what they want to do with minimal effort, then the usability has failed. A McKinsey five-year study tracked companies worldwide in multiple industries and found a strong correlation between those that have a committed focus on user design – of which usability is a key metric – and superior business performance. The companies focused on design-led thinking grew substantially faster than their industry counterparts over the same period, with up to 32% higher revenue growth.
Achieving successful usability
Clear, intuitive software ensures users can follow a process or complete a task with significantly less training and support than complex, convoluted systems. When users struggle with systems, they can quickly become a burden. This can result in pulling resources from other team members to support them which can create issues and errors through incorrect usage; or finding a workaround outside of the system that circumvents validation and verification steps.
Aligning new technology to its user-base is critical for a good return on investment with high adoption rates and satisfied users. At Audacia, we have a simple usability checklist for digital transformation success:
– An iterative design/development process that pays attention to users and their needs at each stage of the project
– An emphasis on accessibility and usability
– A focus on the end-to-end, or whole, user experience
– An approach that keeps the user in the spotlight, especially when working with complex processes. Too often, design is distracted by the functional parts, the picking apart or ‘fixing’ of complex processes, and the end-user is forgotten
Four ways to ensure user-driven design
Ensuring a user-friendly design should be a key priority from the outset. Here are four ways to boost usability:
Get extensive feedback from end users before development starts
Before any digital project begins, it’s critical to get detailed feedback from the end users – the people who will be using the technology on a day-to-day basis. Often people say one thing, and then do another, so it’s important to analyse exactly how the end users perform tasks; where they go and in what order; what the existing bottlenecks are, and what functionality they would like to see. Gathering feedback early on will improve the usability of the technology in the long run.
Fit technology to the ability of end users and ensure tailored functionality
Using the latest features, functionality and design is not appropriate if the end users are not tech-literate. Equally, new technology that is overly basic or too simple will not appeal to highly proficient technology users. It’s therefore important to ensure digital projects are tailored to the technological ability of the end users and that functionality is customised to them.
The environment in which the system is going to be used should also be considered
For example, a system to complete health and safety checks on construction sites using industrial tablets will need different design considerations than a product management system that’s accessed on laptops within an office, or a CRM used by mobile sales employees.
Use proof of concepts and prototypes
Using proof of concepts and prototypes early on in the process validates initial visions for the new technology and demonstrates that the project is viable. They provide visual demonstrations of workflows, generate early user feedback and ensure feasibility of high-risk technical features.
Take an agile iterative approach to development
An iterative approach enables the modification of new technology throughout the development process. A continuous feedback loop between users and developers enables the refinement of user requirements and needs, for appropriate user journeys to be clearly defined, and for workflows to be effectively mapped. Being agile, and adapting designs during production, will deliver a fully functional user-driven application. And a flexible, responsive approach is particularly beneficial when user needs or the market changes, allowing the development to adapt as required.
Key benefits of a usability approach
Approaching digital transformation with a usability approach has a number of benefits.
Essentially, a usability approach:
· builds intuitive systems
· ensures effective adoption
· gains buy-in from customers or employees
· generates fit-for-purpose user roles for streamlined productivity
· creates ownership as end users feel they have shaped the product
· increases value from digital and technology investments
· reduces risk of human error and workarounds in the future; technology is sustainable and longer-lasting so delivers better ROI
Measuring successful usability
Usability is not an intangible concept. The effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of technology can be measured, and the data analysed to quantify usability. Measuring for effectiveness can include examining the task completion rate and number of errors. Efficiency can be measured by looking at the time it takes to complete an individual task, as well as the overall time-based efficiency of completing many tasks. Satisfaction can be assessed by using satisfaction questionnaires which ask users to rate whether the task was very difficult or very easy on a scale. This data can then be compared with previous processes or technology to quantify value, and also used when testing prototypes and during the development process.
Technology projects succeed when intentionally and strategically tailored to the end-users. A focus on design-led thinking is now just as important in digital transformation as cost-savings and tangible efficiencies.
Considering the usability of new technology from the outset – iterating as the development progresses and involving end users – helps to drive success in technology projects.
About the Author
Philip White is Managing Director at Audacia. Audacia is a leading bespoke software development company based in Leeds & London. We have an excellent track record of delivering secure, reliable & robust business-critical bespoke software solutions to a wide range of clients. Find out more: www.audacia.co.uk
Featured image: ©Rymden