I've been reading Return on Investment for Usable UserInterface Design: Examples and Statistics; it quotes:

"...usability techniques helped cut development time by 33-50%” (Bosert, 1991)

Although I can see some reasons why this would be the case but I feel like I'm still missing something important. What specific reasons do you know of (or suspect) that would make this statement true?

Reasons I can think of:

  • Easier to understand the flow / intent of the application (or site) - so its easier to develop (just like users will find it easier to learn).
  • Quicker to test (and testing overall more effective).

[feel free to re-tag this if you know of any better ones]

  • What usability techniques are they referring to? – Rahul Jul 26 '11 at 8:43
  • They didn't say - hence my question :) – Adrian K Jul 26 '11 at 8:55
  • Cuts 're-development' time is probably more correct. – Michael Lai Jun 12 '14 at 6:26

Heck - I don't even know what the development process would have been 20 years ago! Things have changed drastically inthe last 20 years with greater adoption of agile development processes and the like.

But that aside, looking at Bosert's Book 'Quality Function Deployment: A Practitioner's Approach' (Using 'Look inside' on Amazon), he seems to actually be saying that the reduction in 'time to market' is reduced because the greater time spent on understanding usability issues in the early stages is more than compensated by the reduction of mid-stream design changes later in the development lifecycle.

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  • Ah - so more of a requirements thing than a 'developer" thing. – Adrian K Jul 26 '11 at 8:56
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    Yes, from what I gather looking at this QFD book briefly, I think it's essentially about taking a user centered design approach from the outset - something which perhaps is more prevalent now anyway than 20 years ago. As Wikipedia puts it: QFD is a “method to transform user demands into design quality, to deploy the functions forming quality, and to deploy methods for achieving the design quality into subsystems and component parts, and ultimately to specific elements of the manufacturing process". Catchy! – Roger Attrill Jul 26 '11 at 9:05
  • I think QDF is more like "Usability Engineering" than "User Centered Design". That Take a look at the other article that supports the dev.cut argument: "Usability Engineering Approach to Software Quality", M. W. Scerbo (1991): asq.org/qic/display-item/?item=9732 – Jørn E. Angeltveit Jul 26 '11 at 12:02
  • @Adrian: Yes, it is all about getting it right the first time by figuring out what the customers really wants... – Jørn E. Angeltveit Jul 26 '11 at 12:04

Good usability involvement cuts development time because you develop the right thing.

It also reduces the chance of outright failure. People often forget to include these in time estimates. The time spent on a failed app or iteration gets added to the next iteration in calculating the time to profitability (or even release). This is assuming you even get a second chance.

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I would disagree with that statement. Good user interface design would require more development time, not less. Nothing is free. Where it would save time is when UX issues are preempted and the flow of the application is defined up-front, which would mean that developers wouldn't need to make changes (especially time-consuming changes to the back-end) to change the front-end. On the evil side of the coin, UI changes are made as an afterthought and based on feedback from the client on an already-deployed application.

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    I know where you're coming from, but a lot of research seems to indicate that if you're doing good usability work early on you can fix defects faster and cheaper. It's easier to fix things on paper than once you've cut code. – Adrian K Jul 26 '11 at 8:58
  • Why it may be true, that good user interface design would require more development time, but then again other non coding activites make this too, like testing, documenting etc. I think that building a (consumer) product with bad user interface eventually leads to a bad product sales and wasted time on development. So in the end by spending less time on the ui design you will spend more time on development. – Péter Polgár Jul 30 '11 at 14:53
  • I concede that if you factor in maintenance, etc throughout the whole life-cycle of the product, there would be savings. Initially it would take more development time (which was what I was trying to get at) – Jaco Briers Aug 1 '11 at 6:06

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