OK, it's trite, arbitrary, western-centric and perhaps even politically incorrect. But the flipping of the calendar from the year 1999 to Y2K is compelling. Y2K: For how many of the past 1000 years would such a term have been meaningful? That it is, shows how central information technology has become in our thinking.
Yet, while we are making progress, getting usability the attention it deserves is still a struggle. While e-tailers are celebrating a possible $8 billion this year, a study reported by NPR found that some 40% of on-line shopping transactions were abandoned in frustration by consumers. Several of those were mine.
Ultimately, e-business will not succeed if using it is too hard or too uncertain. And those companies who concentrate on usability will have a strategic edge. Look at companies amazon.com, ebay.com and quicken.com. They may not be perfect, but their concern for the user experience shows. A couple of years ago, a Harvard study reported that only excellent customer experiences tended to produce repeat loyalty. When it comes to retaining customers, OK is just not good enough.
Perhaps the millennium will be a wake-up call for companies trying to reposition themselves as e-businesses. As an organization and as usability professionals, it is our mission to support them as they re-think their organizational priorities and processes.
How do we need to change to do this? If you could only pick one thing for us to do differently, what would it be?
That's the question I would pose to all of us. As always, I invite your comments on the UPA discussion server. If you are not already a registered, click here to sign up.
On a personal note, I want to acknowledge four Board members who are returning to civilian life. Janice James, Jeff Rubin, Sue Braun and Michael Muller have been warm, creative, supportive and energetic. I will miss their presence and wisdom.