“The Customer is King” – an often and apt message that we often see on stores that try and drive home the message to both the customer as well as the seller, if the latter wishes to make a sale! Well Usability Engineering, as the name suggests, deals with the interface between humans and machines or products created by humans. Although, this does involve some aspect of design, termed as UXD (User experience field of design), usability engineering is more focused on the usability of the product rather than the design of the product.
Why is this so important? We use various products for a variety of tasks. The whole process that is involved in the creation of a product life cycle can be long and ardous. Imagine, if a single person is left alone to design the product, is handed over a list of dos and dont’s but has no interaction between the group that conducted the study and the users? Too little or too much can also ruin the focus of the products usage.
In the field of computer software and its usage, Agile Usability Engineering is stated to be “the way” to reduce the long and costly affair. How so? Well, imagine you create a software, but the user out there has very little knowledge of what to do with it once installed. So, a bit of intuitive knowledge of what the product is supposed to do, and some intuitive knowledge of how users will behave, is very essential to Usability Engineering. This. if set into the initial discussions of the idea itself, will help reduce costs and time, with regard to the product development and its evolution. Usability engineering is important to be integrated in whatever you do not just for a better product, but also for better processes and methodologies!
Interaction has a very important part to play here- between the ideator, the creator, the designer, the usability engineer, and most importantly the user or the customer! Two important factors are very crucial in this process of interaction – the Art of Listening and the Art of Observation. And this is essential in anything you develop be it a safety pin or even a nuclear reactor! Listening to your users, observing their reactions to your queries, can help you not just design but also engineer better products.
The basic tenets of Agile Usability Engineering does not have to be set for software products only. The principle behind every product is to create a small model and test it at every step, before it leads to a big problem. There is a saying in Japanese, ” Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain“. This simple thought when applied to any idea that needs to be implemented, can go a long way in helping you reduce waste of time and money, crucial for the success of any product. Besides, change is necessary for anything to evolve. And, this change can be tested among users who will use the product. It is vital to observe even those who will not, or appear slightly averse to using a product. Why? Because, it not only gives insight, but also challenges the barriers, guiding us on to provide a wholesome solution to the problem.
Interaction, is thus, not just action and reaction between two subjects, but involves, a whole lot of factors. And all this goes into engineering the usability of a product. So next time you are called upon to take a survey, don’t shy away- it is necessary for every user to contribute his reactions for a better and thoughtful product!
And, do remember, the human body too is a part of Usability Engineering, without which we would never be able to multitask!