The User Experience: Keep the Magic In Mind

By Johna Till Johnson
On Jun 22, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012

One of my favorite quotes at the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston was from Art King, the global infrastructure manager at Nike (the footwear and equipment company) who was talking about how IT teams need to step up when it comes to creating collaborative, social, and mobile applications. 

The goal, Art said, was to create a “magical user experience”.

I really love that. Because all too often, IT takes a build-it-and-they-will- come approach: So long as the application is functional, users will use it. No need to pay attention to frills like color and design.

Guess what? That’s no longer true (if indeed it ever was).  Unless an application is compelling, easy to use, and yes, magical, users are going to go somewhere else. They’ll find a workaround—often an off-the-shelf consumer technology that’s got great look-and-feel but isn’t up to snuff when it comes to corporate security or data management. (My favorite example: the law firm whose employees started storing all the client case files in Google Docs because the corporate collaboration system was so clunky. Eek!)

And Art wasn’t the only one. Nearly everyone I spoke with complained about the same problem: Enterprise collaborative, social, or mobile apps that simply weren’t easy or fun to use. 

The root cause? Lack of proper usability testing.  This came up over and over, from almost everyone. Enterprises aren’t conducting usability testing, even if they’ve invested millions in their collaboration efforts.

 Yet usability testing has fallen out of favor in the past few years.

I’m not sure why, so I asked someone who should know: Adam Hulnick, a professional usability tester.  “There’s a sense from senior managers that usability testing should no longer be necessary. They pay top-dollar for designers already-- shouldn’t those designers be able to just create usable interfaces?” says Hulnick.

 

I also think there’s a bigger problem: IT departments don’t consider “magical user experience” a design goal. But it should be—because the competition is consumer products that are.

Have comments? Interested in discussing this project further? Join the Nemertes Usability discussion group on LinkedIn. We look forward to hearing from you!