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  • 1. Usability The Elevator Pitch Deb Cook Eva Kaniasty Andrew Wirtanen
  • 2. Agenda
    • Explaining what we do
    • Our approach to getting answers
    • Introducing the experts
    • The Personal Pitch
    • The Workplace Pitch
    • Lessons learned
    • Presentation videos are available at http://
  • 3. What Is So Hard About Explaining What We Do?
    • Some people have it easy…
      • I’m a lawyer
      • I’m a web designer
      • I’m a jet pilot
      • I’m a software engineer
    • Some don’t…
      • I’m an Interaction Designer
      • I’m an Information Architect
      • I’m a Human Factors Engineer
      • I’m a Usability Specialist
  • 4. Explaining Usability
    • How much detail?
    • How technical?
    • What terminology?
      • Human Factors
      • Information Design
      • Usability
      • User Experience
      • Information Architecture
      • Accessibility
      • User Research
      • Interaction Design
      • Intuitive
      • User-friendly
      • Efficient
      • Effective
      • Easy to use/learn
      • Not frustrating
      • Satisfying
      • Enjoyable
  • 5. What Not To Say…
    • Human Factors
      • Human Resources
        • Human Services
          • Human Factory
            • Human Sacrifice
    The devolution of HF
  • 6. Common Misunderstandings
    • Usability is easy
      • “ You make things user friendly? They pay you for that?”
      • “ This stuff is obvious. Anybody can do it.”
    • User research is unnecessary
      • “ Our products are usable. Customers never complain about our software/website.”
      • “ We don’t need to talk to users. Our salespeople know what customers want.”
    • Usability by any other name
      • “ Doesn’t QA do this?”
      • “ We already have a beta-testing program.”
      • “ You make things look pretty, right?”
  • 7. Our Approach
    • Ask the experts…
      • How they define usability?
      • How they explain it?
      • How they persuade others?
      • Do their mothers understand what they do for a living? (No)
  • 8. Introducing The Experts http://
  • 9. The Experts
    • Joe Dumas Dr. Usability, Bentley College; Author of “A Practical Guide to Usability Testing”
    • Jonathan Grudin Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research
    • Steve Krug Usability Consultant and Founder, Advanced Common Sense; Author of “Don’t Make Me Think”
    • Mary Beth Rettger Director of Usability, The MathWorks
    • Janice Rohn Vice President – Consumer Experience,™
    • Jared Spool Founder, User Interface Engineering
    • Tom Tullis Senior Vice President, User Experience, Fidelity Investments
  • 10. We Make Things Usable. So, what exactly does that mean?
  • 11. Usability Is… “ [A product is usable when] people can use the thing for its intended purpose, without it being more trouble than it’s worth.” – Steve Krug, Advanced Common Sense “… the absence of frustration. What you do is remove all the frustrating bits...” – Jared Spool, User Interface Engineering “ A usable product allows the user to focus on what they’re trying to accomplish…” -Mary Beth Rettger, The MathWorks
  • 12. Usability Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
    • Good usability is hard to pinpoint
    • It’s easier to see…
      • Poor usability
      • Consequences of bad usability
    • The next frontier
      • Enjoyable user experiences
  • 13. So How Do We Explain What We Do? …It depends.
  • 14. The Personal Pitch
  • 15. It Depends On The Audience
    • Interest level
    • Relationship
    • Familiarity/Comfort with technology
    • Attractiveness?!?
    “ I gauge [if] they’re coming from a technical background…Depending on the background, I alter it.” - Janice Rohn, “ I have six different answers.” - Jared Spool, User Interface Engineering
  • 16. Keep It Simple “ It’s sort of on a need-to-know basis…The simpler you can keep it the better.” - Steve Krug, Advanced Common Sense “ I tell people I do software engineering, because people can relate to that. Then I say I’m involved in making products easy to use.” - Joe Dumas, Dr. Usability “ I try to help design websites so people can use them easily…the web domain is a handy one to talk in because it is one that almost everybody can relate to.” - Tom Tullis, Fidelity Investments
  • 17. Examples Work Well
    • “ Phone menu systems are just nightmarish...”
    • Steve Krug, Advanced Common Sense
    • “ Remote controls…Dr. Usability had to get help…just to be able to turn the picture-in-picture off.”
    • Joe Dumas, Dr. Usability “Remote control units.”
    • Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft Research
    • “ The funny thing about thinking of that as the Elevator Pitch [for Usability] is that I sometimes I use an elevator as my example.”
    • -Tom Tullis, Fidelity Investments
  • 18. The Workplace Pitch
  • 19. It Depends On The Audience
    • Interest level
    • Frequency of interaction
    • Person’s role in the organization
    • Person’s primary focus (function)
      • Business
      • Product development
  • 20. Common Strategies
    • Avoid the term “usability”
    • Position user centered design (UCD) as a solution to a problem
      • Tie it into the goals, objectives and values of the business (or the person)
      • WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?”
    • “ Show” is more powerful than “tell”
  • 21. Avoid The Term “Usability” “ One of the things we learned a long time ago is the less we mention the word ‘usability’, the better we can sell things - and the bigger the projects.” - Jared Spool, User Interface Engineering
  • 22. Position UCD As A Solution To A Problem
    • Tie it into the goals, objectives and values of the business (or the person)
    • WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?”
    “ We talked about their problems. They didn’t have a usability problem. They had a problem that they weren’t selling enough.” - Jared Spool, User Interface Engineering “ I explain the benefits in the terms that are the most important to the particular company.” - Janice Rohn,
  • 23. “ Show” Is More Powerful Than “Tell” “ Talking about user centered design and the value of it in the abstract just doesn’t seem to be nearly as convincing as being able to see it in action.” -Tom Tullis, Fidelity Investments “ I try to get users in front of developers as much as I can.” -Joe Dumas, Dr. Usability “ I would tell people ‘Do some user tests.’ Have them watch people try and use their stuff.” -Steve Krug, Advanced Common Sense “ The best way to explain the benefits is actually to demonstrate the benefits.” -Mary Beth Rettger
  • 24. “ Show” Is More Powerful Than “Tell” “ One of the things I’m a big believer in is measuring the state of things before and after…Demonstrate significant improvement.” -Janice Rohn,
  • 25. Lessons Learned
  • 26. It’s Getting Better All The Time “ I have seen such a huge change over the years.” -Janice Rohn, “ In the early days, you had to teach people, or try to convince them, that usability itself was important.” -Joe Dumas, Dr. Usability
  • 27. But, Some People Still Aren’t Ready – So Choose Your Battles Wisely “ We’ve certainly had some people who get mainly defensive…when we’re testing ‘their baby’….But most people recognize the value of it.” -Tom Tullis, Fidelity Investments “ I gave up trying to convince people that usability was important. I just figured, if they didn’t get it, they were not going to ever get it, probably. ” -Joe Dumas, Dr. Usability
  • 28. Final Lessons
    • We are in good company -
    • Even the experts have struggled with this issue.
    • Write a book –
    • It will reduce your need to create a usability elevator pitch.
  • 29. Discussion
    • Questions?
    • Comments?
    • War Stories?
    The full presentation, including video clips, will be available at soon. Debbie Cook - Eva Kaniasty – Andrew Wirtanen –