When choosing software, many businesses primarily think about core features and price, while treating design and usability as secondary considerations. But software usability should be one of your top considerations.
What exactly is usability, and on what grounds do we assert that it’s just as important a consideration as price or core features?
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What Is Usability?
Usability refers to how easy or intuitive a software platform is to use, for the average user. In an ideal situation, you’ll have access to software that can be learned in a matter of minutes, with no confusing icons, slow processes, or disruptive developments that interfere with how the software can be used.
For example, let’s say you’re interested in purchasing fleet maintenance software. After watching a very brief demo, you feel like you understand the basic elements of the program. When experimenting with a free trial, you can quickly and easily find all the features you want, use the platform consistently, and accomplish your goals quickly. This platform would be considered highly usable.
Conversely, let’s say there’s a competing platform that has an abundance of features you can’t quite identify, a confusing interface that costs you minutes of time, and unhelpful tutorials that leave you feeling more lost than when you started. This platform would be considered highly unusable.
How Higher Usability Benefits Your Business
How does software with higher usability benefit your business?
- A mark of quality. Software usability is becoming increasingly important for designers and developers to consider. It’s obviously not the only factor worth considering, but when developers prioritize usability on the same tier as functionality, it serves as a mark of quality. You can all but guarantee that this product was created with deliberate attention and care, and that the people behind it are going to be willing to support it into the future.
- Training and education. Usability makes training and education much easier; if you’re integrating a totally new platform or if you’re digitizing efforts that used to be manual, this is an especially important consideration. You don’t want to spend hundreds of hours coaching and babysitting your employees until they can use a platform competently; it’s much better if they can figure out how to use it on their own, in a matter of minutes.
- Potential for errors and misuse. Usable software is less prone to errors and is less likely to be misused. If it’s very important that all your employees use the software consistently, following the same processes and referring to the same sources of truth, usability should naturally be a top concern.
- Adoption consistency. In some scenarios, it may be difficult to persuade your employees to use the platform consistently. If your employees have other options for how to handle something, or if there are older, more obsolete processes they can follow, a platform with low usability is going to make them much more reluctant to move forward. A more usable platform could naturally persuade them to use the platform consistently.
- Staff morale. You also need to think about the morale of your staff. If the software platform is slow, confusing, irritating in its presentation, and generally frustrating to work with, your employees are going to be tired and angry by the end of the day. If the software platform is fast, intuitive, pleasant, and easy to deal with, your employees are going to be much more satisfied with their positions, boosting retention and productivity.
- Overall productivity. Higher morale can increase productivity, but the benefits of usable software don’t end there. Usable software cuts out wasted time in many different areas; it reduces the need for training, it mitigates potential troubleshooting, it performs faster, and it helps employees accomplish what they need to accomplish sooner. Usability is critical for overall productivity.
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How do you judge the usability of a platform?
This is a somewhat subjective determination, so the best approach is to take advantage of free trials and ask yourself the following:
- How quickly can you jump in? How much training and education did you really need to start using the platform? Could you jump in with no prior knowledge?
- Can you find everything you’re looking for? Without resorting to training manuals, are you able to find everything that you’re looking for with relative ease?
- Is anything confusing? Do you find yourself confused by anything? Is this confusion easily resolved?
- Does experimentation lead to results? If you start improvising and poking around the platform to see what it can do, do you discover interesting new features?
When you include usability in your list of considering factors for purchasing new software, you set yourself up for a much better decision for your organization. Keep it in balance with your other objectives and priorities.
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