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-Work processes and workflow to be streamlined -Costs to be reduced or revenue generated -Desired behavior to be predicted and measured -Competitive differentiation to be defined and tracked -Service levels to be established -Brand to be built through a targeted, positive user experience
Simply stated, a well-designed, user-centric web site reflects priorities of business and represents business model of company or organization.
Usability. It's part of big picture.
For systems integrators and Internet architects, challenge is to integrate usability into an e-commerce strategy and subsequently into a project lifecycle, so that it becomes an integral part of overall planning, design, development, testing, and launch. This is easier said than done. When systems integrators claim to conduct "usability testing," it's safe to assume that this is a distinctively separate activity, performed generally at END of project. While this is better than nothing, of course, it is but not optimal approach, and it will offer only limited benefits to overall product.
User requirements need to be assessed early in analysis stage of an e-commerce initiative, so that usability is considered throughout project lifecycle. Issues like impact on workflow, expectations in navigation, "logical and intuitive" site design and content management, and behavior we want to enable or expectations we need to design to are huge considerations. This is combined with technical architecture, transactional requirements, and performance expectations, and is synthesized -- exploited -- to achieve maximum user benefit in areas such as user profiling and personalization, dynamic content assembly, and interactivity.
Certainly, usability should never "dumb down" requirements to lowest common denominator in an attempt to satisfy "every user." On contrary, usability should no longer be considered as a way to prevent potential problems, but rather, an approach that realizes greater possibilities. Usability should challenge and push envelope equally as hard as technical, business, and creative requirements. Only then do we break through with an innovative, engaging, clever, and effective web site.
Business Model. That's bottom line.
Creating a compelling user experience has a direct tie to market competitiveness. It's fair to say that usability should, in all cases, support, augment, and enable realization of business model. Happy users aren't true objective, although certainly, it's a desirable by-product. Rather, realized business goals through targeted usability objectives make usability a straightforward business case.
Mimi Brooks, founder, president and CEO of Logical Design Solutions (www.lds.com), a leading provider of Internet professional services to the Fortune 500.