USABILITY – SOFTWARE COMPANIES STILL NEED TO LEARN HOW TO SATISFY THEIR USERS
The usability of products, systems, and services has been an important factor of modern information technology for more than 20 years. The spread of new, more diverse technology demands a continuous involvement of future users in the development process. Nevertheless, well-known companies still release products which were obviously insufficiently evaluated with users or not evaluated at all. An example would be Microsoft’s Windows 8, which, according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, offers "disappointing usability for both novice and power users". Despite the long existence and the known benefits of user-centered design, it seems that usability methods are only little integrated into the development process of many companies.
Since more than eight years, a range of usability lectures have been part of the education of engineers and developers at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien in Vienna, Austria. Universities of Applied Sciences focus on teaching state-of-the-art sciences which are directly applicable to economy goals in order to meet the requirements of companies. So how do companies handle usability in particular, what are their usability needs, and what skills do they miss from developers? These questions and more have been asked within an online survey in order to identify current trends and needs, which can then be integrated in the development of existing and new usability lectures, preparing and equipping our students to fit the actual needs of economy.
The survey has been sent to various companies in the fields of software development, IT services and consulting, banking and financial services, public service, and industry, focusing on the German-speaking area, mainly Austria. 81 participants of different companies shared their experiences on how they see and encounter usability in their daily work life and what’s important to them. The results indicate, among other findings, the still increasing importance of usability in the economy, but at the same time, a lack of knowledge in the field of usability. Due to time and budget constraints, preferably simple and cost-effective usability methods are to be applied within the development process in a first step. The contrast of an increasing demand for usability and a simultaneous shortage of expertise requires an even deeper integration of user centered design methods in software development study programs.