Questioning Software Usability

IT companies spend billions of dollars to create and market software designed to improve efficiency and increase effectiveness, but many of these tools are failing users. When we have to work hard to interact with technology, that means the technology has broken its promise to make our lives easier. Every labored or failed transaction bleeds organizations of money, time, efficiency, productivity and opportunities.

The main reason software applications fall short of their potential is because they’re poorly designed: Most are cumbersome to use, and some prove impossible. So, whether you’re purchasing new software, developing an in-house system or assessing the application tools you already have, be sure to ask the questions that rarely get asked. Here are some starters:

How did this tool come to be? Was its creation the result of sound design and development processes, or simply a feat of computer engineering looking for a problem to solve? Your company needs a system that taps technology to create the best business solutions for your employees and customers.

How do they know the tool will be effective in the hands of your employees? Ask if the software vendor will allow your users to sit with the application and perform a familiar task. Users should be able to figure out how to do these things and comment on the quality of the experience. A vendor demo isn’t good enough, because these demos are basically infomercials.

Does this application convey the vendor’s understanding of the difference between data and information? When information is delivered in the correct form, it—unlike data—can quickly and effectively provide insight and drive appropriate action. Choose the system that reflects a knowledge and concern for your business and your employees’ need for information.