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Resources: Usability in the Real World

Business Benefits of Usability

The benefits of usability include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased training and support costs
  • Increased sales and revenues
  • Reduced development time and costs
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Increased customer satisfaction

Increased Productivity

The average software program has 40 design flaws that impair employees' ability to use it. The resulting cost of lost productivity can be up to 720%. (Landauer, 1995, The Trouble With Computers , MIT Press.)

Productivity within the service sector would rise 4% - 9% annually if every software program were designed for usability. (Landauer, 1995, The Trouble With Computers , MIT Press.)

Office workers "futz" with their machines an average of 5.1 hours each week, costing American businesses $100 billion annually in lost productivity. Almost one-fifth of the workers' time is spent waiting for programs to run or for help to arrive, with double-checking printouts for accuracy and format following as a close second. (SBT Accounting System, 1997)

Over the past 30 years, productivity growth in the seven richest nations has fallen from an average of 4.5% per year in the 1960s to a rate of 1.5% in recent years. The slowdown has hit the biggest IT spenders -- service-sector industries, especially in the U.S. (Gibbs, "Command and Control." Scientific American, July 1997)

Decreased Training Time

The number of computer users in the workplace has increased from 600,000 in 1976 to 80 million today. (Tanaka, "Workplace Injuries Spark Cottage Industry." San Francisco Examiner, 3/29/98)

A study of MIS managers found that the training time for new users of a standard personal computer was 21 hours, whereas it was only 11 hours for users of a more usable computer. (Diagnostic Research, 1990, "Macintosh, MS-DOS, Or Windows: A Synopsis Of What MIS Managers And Business Computers Had To Say." )

Increased Sales and Revenues

50% of all technology projects fail to meet chief executives' expectations. (CSX Index and American Management Association, 1998)

Combining hardware, software, networks and the people needed for computer support and training, the total spending on IT in 1996 was approximately $500 billion in the U.S. and more than $1 trillion worldwide. (Paul A. Strassman, Method Software, Scientific American, 7/97)

Government statistics indicate one-third of the overall real growth in the U.S. was attributed to IT, and IT will continue to be the "engine of continued economic growth" for decades to come. (Ira Magaziner, Senior Advisor to the President, "White House Policy Advisor Ira Magaziner Tells ACM Policy98 Conference That Internet Should Be Market-Driven, Not Regulated." CMP Tech Web, Business Wire 5/12/98)

Reduced development time and costs

According to a 1995 study by The Standish Group:

  • 9% - 16% of software development projects are completed on time and on budget. Large companies have a 9% success rate. Medium-sized companies succeed with 16% of projects. Small companies had the greatest success rate at 28%.
  • Overall, 31% of software development projects are canceled before completion. Another 52% of projects eventually do get completed, but end up costing 189% of their original budget. In terms of time, they take between twice and three times as long as originally anticipated.
  • When software projects are completed, they only have 42% of the features originally intended.
  • More than 30% of software development projects are canceled before completion, primarily because of inadequate user design input. The result is an annual loss of $80 billion to the economy.

The implementation of usability engineering techniques has demonstrated a reduction in the product development cycle by 33% - 50%. (Bosert, 1991, Quality Functional Deployment: A Practitioner's Approach. NY: ASQC Quality Press)

Reduced maintenance costs

Every $1 invested in user-centered design returns between $2 and $100. (Pressman, 1992. Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach . McGraw-Hill, NY. )

80% of software lifecycle costs occur during the maintenance phase. (Pressman, 1992 Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach . McGraw-Hill, NY.)

Increased customer satisfaction

63% of software projects exceeded their estimates, with the top four reasons all related to product usability:

frequent requests for changes by users
overlooked tasks
users' lack of understanding of their own requirements
insufficient user-analyst communication and understanding
(Lederer and Prassad, 1992)

84% of Internet users say that the Web is indispensable. Nearly the same percentage find e-mail indispensable. 85% use the Internet every day. (Kehoe, GVU, 1997 Graphic, Visualization & Usability Center's (GVU) Eighth WWW User Survey Report, (December). )

If the response time between the viewer's click and the appearance of a new page is less than one-tenth of a second, the viewer perceives it as instantaneous. Once the wait goes from six to 10 seconds, the viewer gets distracted and begins to consider other surfing options. (Matt Cohen, New Century Network, New Media Week, 3/30/98)

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