October 9th, 2006
In their UI11 presentation Building and Managing a Successful User Experience Team, Sarah Bloomer and Susan Wolfe are tackling a huge challenge in web design: convincing stakeholders of the value of usability. To help do this, Sarah and Susan employ what they call a usability affinity grid.
The usability affinity grid is comprised of 4 levels. Each level builds on the others, moving from business goals to usability goals. Talking about a project in terms of a usability grid helps large or dispersed teams and their stakeholders get on the same page, agreeing on the value provided by a focus on usability in the organization.
Here are the levels, and how they build on each other.
- Business Goals
Business goals are the goals that the business needs to reach in order to be successful. These are often very straight-forward, but difficult to achieve. One big goal of many businesses is repeat revenue, getting revenue from folks on a recurring basis. Magazine subscriptions are a great example of recurring revenue occurring on a yearly basis.
Issues are the problems that arise during daily operation and directly affect business goals. In a call center, for example, the biggest issue is the hold time for incoming calls. As hold time increases, customer satisfaction goes down, and customers become frustrated and angry, making business goals more difficult to attain. We’ve all had the experience of being on hold and having a pseudo-pleasant voice promising us “Your call is important to us”. Argh!
- Business Objectives
Business objectives are objectives that, if reached, will solve the outstanding issues of the organization. In the call center example, the obvious business objective is to reduce customer queues. This objective doesn’t lead to revenue directly, but indirectly.
- Usability Objectives
If one of your business objectives is to reduce calling queues, then a usability objective might be to enhance the productivity of the call center operators. Designing to support efficiency of use of the call center operators would directly reduce the time it took to handle each call, which would directly address the issue and thus the business goals in the end.
As Sarah and Susan point out, this grid is simply a tool to help design teams within an organization. Some teams already use this sort of reasoning implicitly, without mapping out these levels explicitly. But for those teams who are still struggling with communicating the value of usability, the usability affinity grid can prove invaluable.Tweet