Reasons Why Usability Problems Don’t Get Fixed
There are various reasons why usability problems exist in the first place—some simple and some complex. Identifying problems and recommending solutions is not always enough. Unfortunately, the same factors that cause problems in the first place also hinder their getting fixed. The following are some of the most common reasons why usability problems don’t get fixed.
Lack of Resources
Organizations that lacked the skills, time, money, or other resources to design and build a usable system from the outset, often have difficulty fixing usability problems once you’ve identified them.
No One Has the Skills to Fix Them
Good design and implementation are difficult. Often, the people responsible for fixing usability problems are those who caused them in the first place. Even with the best intentions, designers may not have enough knowledge of users or the ability to design a better solution. And even if they do, developers may not have the skills to implement their designs. The worst-case scenario: some project teams don’t even include designers. Instead, developers build user interfaces based on requirements business analysts have gathered.
There Is a Lack of Time, Money, or Resources
Often, there are more usability problems than a team can fix with the available time, money, and resources. It’s much easier to address the simple fixes, the so-called quick wins rather than tackle the difficult issues that require a major redesign. Although fixing these small problems may give the team a sense of accomplishment, sadly, the more serious problems may never get addressed.
Technology limitations can both cause usability problems and limit solutions.
Technical Limitations Make Changes Difficult
It is important for usability professionals and designers to understand the limitations and possibilities various technologies present. Understanding constraints is key to coming up with a usable and implementable solution. Plus, with sufficient technical knowledge, UX professionals are less likely to get fooled by a developer who claims a design solution isn’t technically possible, but is really making excuses to avoid implementing it.?
Vendor Software Is Difficult to Change
One of the most frustrating situations you might encounter is trying to improve the usability of an enterprise application your company has bought from a vendor. Such applications are often poorly designed, with a one-size-fits-all mentality. They are often built using proprietary code, so are difficult to change, making usability improvements difficult, if not impossible. It’s no wonder companies would rather rely on training and extensive workarounds than address the problems.
Usability problems persist in organizations that place a low value on user experience. Other priorities often take precedence over fixing usability problems.
Poor Usability Is Accepted As the Norm
Some application domains are so notoriously difficult that people have accepted poor usability as the norm. This is particularly true with enterprise applications. Employees have little choice other than to learn to deal with poorly designed applications. With the difficulty and cost involved in improving or replacing these systems, it can seem easier to simply accept poor usability as an inevitable consequence of technology.
Political Issues Interfere with Improvements
Company politics can both cause and perpetuate usability problems. Even simple changes can require the consent of multiple groups, each with different agendas and priorities. In some cases, a high-level executive’s personal preferences might dictate design decisions. Attempting to navigate such political issues can seem like a daunting task.
Usability Problems Get Dismissed As Training Issues
A convenient way for an organization to avoid fixing usability problems is to dismiss them as training issues. Believing that problems are training issues supposes that the problems aren’t in the software, they’re in the users. Users just need to learn how to use the software, and that would take care of all the problems. An even lazier and less expensive solution is declaring something a communication issue. People just need to be told the right way to do something.
Regulations and Security Issues Conflict with Usability
Sometimes legal considerations, regulations, company rules, and security issues conflict with usability considerations. There are usually ways to work around such conflicts, but many companies have a conservative mindset and would rather err on the side of caution than change the status quo.
To solve usability problems, a project team needs to understand the problems and the recommended solutions. Unfortunately, communication problems can prevent teams from comprehending solutions.
Usability Recommendations Aren’t Always Well Explained
Usability professionals usually present their recommendations as text—in the form of a report or presentation. While text is effective for describing general recommendations or simple changes, it is difficult to describe complex design changes with text alone and leaves plenty of room for misinterpretation.
Misunderstandings Occur During Design and Development
Usually, different people do user research, design, and development at different points during a project. It’s not unusual for people in each of these roles to drop off a project once they’ve completed their part. This leaves user research open to designers’ interpretation and design open to developers’ interpretation. No wonder we sometimes scratch our heads when we see the final product, wondering Where did that come from?
There Is No Plan to Implement the Recommendations
Your clients may agree with your recommendations, but if there isn’t a plan to immediately address them and people who are responsible for implementing the changes, your recommendations can get shelved and, eventually, they may be forgotten in the busy pace of day-to-day work.
No Easy Solution
Sometimes usability problems are complex, and you need to do more research, as well as design explorations to better understand the problems and find solutions. Unfortunately, your team and leaders may expect specific findings and recommendations rather than a recommendation for further study or to go back to the drawing board. It can be difficult to admit that you don’t have all the answers.