Silicon Valley Business Catalyst Blog

Poor Experience Equals Poor Revenue

Posted by Grace Hu-Morley on Friday, December 5, 2008 Under: User Experience

If a product has all the customer needed features but cannot be easily deployed or used, users will stop using it and the revenue will dry up.  Incorporating usability will increase revenue, decrease sales cycles, increase product adoption, and lower support costs.

Products need to be designed for the experience.  Product managers should already be focused on what matters most to users.  Product managers deploy offerings that solve market problems therefore it is important that we take it one step further and work on the usability of the product. 

As a product manager, you don't need to be a usability expert yourself, but you need to include user-centered design professionals as part of the development process.  After you've done your homework and have determined there is a large enough target market and there's a market problem that is compelling enough for customers to pay for in this slow market, here is the minimum process that needs to be employed to incorporate usability...

  • Ethnographic studies - Determine how people in your target market currently deal with the problem your trying to solve by employing ethnographic studies.  These human factor studies look at how people handle certain tasks without your product.  The studies reveal what people actually do and not what they say they do.
  • Prototype - Take the results of the ethnographic studies to create product prototypes.  This allows for product design innovation.  The prototype does not have to be a fully working, high-fidelity demo.  It can be a paper prototype, a bunch of images on paper.
  • Usability tests - Take the prototypes and run usability studies with your target customers.  Customers/prospects are always excited to preview and provide their input on upcoming products.
It may take a few iterations between usability and prototyping before a final specification is produced.  Developing successful products is difficult therefore it is important to have an iterative design process early in the product design phase.  The benefits of an early design process include:
  1. cost of design changes are much lower than in later phases of product development
  2. ability to impact the product is much higher in the concept stage
  3. time to market is reduced by eliminating last minute change requests
In other words, it is much easier to fix the design when it is on paper than when the product is already being built.

With products already shipping, they can be improved through usability tests and prototyping as well.  Invite product developers to observe some of the users during the usability studies.  This way the developers will have first hand information of the difficulties users have with the products and will be less resistant to making product changes.

I have found that the ethnographic studies, usability studies, and prototypes are also excellent tools to help the product team innovate, illustrate user problems to developers and other stake holders, and communicate strategy in a more compelling way.

If you do not have internal user-centered design expertise in your company, look for vendors who can conduct the studies as well as provide design services.   This continuity means less time spent getting different people up to speed.

Usability is an important factor to product success.  The revenue stream will continue as long as the customer experience is satisfactory.

In : User Experience 

Tags: product management  product manager  usability  user experience  customer needs  market needs  prototype  ethnography  ethnographic studies  usability studies  product development  user-centered design  revenue  human factor  innovate  innovatio 
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My motivation to begin this blog is to share my ideas mainly around technical marketing management, specifically product management and product marketing in the Silicon Valley. I am passionate about learning and want to help others who are also interested in building their expertise.

About Grace Hu-Morley

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