Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new. (John Gourville, Harvard Business School)

Usability engineers often work as ambassadors. Typically, they act as go-betweens between a company and its users. In particular, they act as go-between between the users and the company’s design team (IAs, IDs, graphic designers, content writers, etc.).

And there’s the rub … Design teams are creative people. They tend to love the new. In fact, I might even go so far as to accuse these people of neophilia (and, yes, that is a real word).

And one of the things that these groups love in particular is technology. And the word for that is technophilia

Now, none of this is to say that the average user is a neo- or technophobe. In fact, I’ve found that, of every 10 users who come into my lab, at least one of them is going to be something of a neo-/technophile themselves (my observers always tend to really like these users, by the way).

In fact, you may well be in a job where your subject matter and users probably flip that 90/10 finding around. Now that, of course, is its own challenge.

For many of us, though, we are typically dealing with an audience that is less technically sophisticated than we are. Think about it …  We are a self-selected group. If you are an IA, or an ID, or what have you, chances are you probably like technology, can’t wait to get the latest gadget or app, and proudly call yourself an early adopter.

Our users, however, typically do not self-select in that way. Yes, they do come to us because we have something they want or need. But that thing is almost never the UI. What they really want is to buy the book, or watch the video, or look up that piece of information. If you have a great new idea that helps them do that, then great. If, however, your brilliant new idea gets between them and the completion of their task, watch out. 

Now, as a usability engineer, you’ve probably already worked all this out for yourself and everything I've said here is totally obvious to you. What your main job may be is getting the rest of the team on board as well. Good luck!

You can find the actual article right here

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