No, I have not suddenly started to question an approach which I have pioneered for more than three decades.
What I am doing is reflecting a discussion currently underway in the International Standards committee considering the revision of ISO 9241 part 11, which defines usability.
Don’t worry, we don’t intend to change the definition in any way that most people would notice. Standard-makers love arguing about fine detail, so there may be some tweaking of the wording in due course.
The core definition will remain the same but we’d welcome some input from Econsultancy’s members about how we describe the outcome of using user-centred design.
UCD is the best way to deliver usable systems, products and services
The standard defines usability in terms of effectiveness (the product or system has to actually work well), efficiency (the effort or resources expended have to be commensurate with the performance delivered) and user satisfaction (a slightly unsatisfactory term which covers everything from ensuring that using the system will not injure or harm the user through to possible enjoyment or even delight).
Usability is closely linked to user-centred design (UCD). In the ISO 9241 series of standards part 210 describes the human-centred design process and replaces the original ISO 13407 standard of the same name.
The term human centred was preferred to user centred to reflect that there are more stakeholders than just users but UCD is the widely used term which we will stick with here.
In the UCD standard we state that following this process is the best way to deliver usable systems, services and products. However, the UCD process also delivers other benefits.
UCD is important for accessible or inclusive systems
It is certainly important when designing accessible or inclusive systems. For example the British Standard on accessible websites (BS8878) quotes it as the best process to follow.
Following a UCD process is also an excellent way of minimising human based risks – not just the risks that users will dislike the system or that it may cause them discomfort or worse but that the entire system will fail because the users can use it.
Sounds like it shouldn’t happen but sadly the management literature is full of examples, which demonstrate the opposite. UCD is also a good way to deliver a great user user experience.
Most would agree that while usability is important for a great experience, much more is involved including anticipation, expectation and the whole context in which the product is used.
What should we call the outcome of UCD?
We would argue that following a UCD process delivers usability, accessibility, reduced risk and user experience. But what to call this combination of benefits?
Some have argued that a term like quality of use could reflect this range but I do not agree. However, at present, I can’t think of a better expression. This is where Econsultancy’s readers come in.
As digital marketers, you understand that UCD is a good way to design usable websites. You also know that accessibility, reduced risk and user experience are important.
Can you think of a good term to describe this outcome from UCD? Please let me know and I will feed it in to the standards development process.