You Forgot About Being Useful

"Our new site is easy to use." - New website announcement

"We want our new site to be gorgeous to look at, easy to use, and completely responsive." - From an RFP for a website redesign

Well, of course! The field of user experience has taken off recently and more businesses are taking it seriously. "Easy to use" is on nearly every list of requirements for website and product development RFPs. The list of UX job openings is bigger than ever. Design thinking is becoming incorporated into businesses like never before. All of this is wonderful new for us who have been working for these outcomes for our entire careers. But...

We spend a lot of time being usable – honing designs to get placement of elements just right, doing tests to see if real people can use our interfaces. That's all well and good, but along the way, we forgot to be useful.

User experience (UX) design concerns itself primarily with providing a good experience. In conjunction with user interface (UI) design, we get pretty, easy-to-use interfaces. But who wants to use them? What are they for? How useful are these ease-to-use interfaces? If you haven't asked what in addition to how, you are bound to end up with some problems.

Enter content strategy. The two main questions content strategists ask are why and what. Together with UX researchers, they can pack a powerful punch. Talk to users, not internal stakeholders, about what they want (in terms of content or functionality) and why they want it (for use cases). Doing this will set you on a path toward usefulness.

Here are some ideas for charting that course:

  1. User or market research – conduct interviews with the target audience and find out what they what and match your offerings to their desires or needs
  2. Audit content against what people want not just your current inventory – go beyond the typical qualitative and heuristic analysis of what you have and see where the gaps are and what you have too much of and plan from there
  3. Map out the content before the design – that way the design can support the content
  4. Keep reminding everyone who the website or product is for the user not the organization – I call this strategic nagging (patient but persistent repetition of a message)

Have you made the leap from being just usable to also being useful? Leave a comment about how you did that.