“Usability is the key to developing successful apps”

“Usability is the key to developing successful apps” http://t.co/2wPXIpmH via @neolabels
Tomás Antón, head of User Experience at Neo Labels, unfolds the secrets underlying today’s buzzword.

What do we mean by “usability” and what value does it add to an application?
Usability means developing products and systems tailored to the users’ needs. The products or systems that fulfil that goal are effective, efficient and user-satisfying.
Usability analyses users, their goals and requirements. It tests the context where a system will be used, it defines access to information and determines the way in which users will interact with our product. In brief, it places the user at the heart of all of the decisions made in the design and implementation process.
In the specific case of apps, mobility and the way in which users interact with this kind of devices is crucial, mainly to define the tasks that the user will be able to perform with said apps.
For example, when creating apps for smartphones, we must consider several factors beyond features, such as ergonomic aspects (thumb interaction), voice commands navigation, etc.
Regarding tablets, the context of use is different. A smartphone is a personal device. I’d say it’s almost non-transferrable. The tablet, by contrast, is more likely to be shared and you don’t carry it with you all the time. Analysing these factors is key to developing successful apps.
 
When thinking of an app, when does usability come into play? 
Traditionally, it has been linked up to the user interface design stage, but that’s a serious mistake. Usability must be present as soon as the need to create a system or application is identified. It must be considered throughout the project because in each stage “we must place the user at the heart of the entire decision-making process” (ISO 9241-210:2010).
 
How does usability relate with contents, programming and creativity?
It’s a cross-cutting discipline: It makes sure that contents are user-friendly; that they speak the users’ language; and that they are well structured and easy to access.
As for programming, it ensures that the system is developed as originally engineered.
At creative level, it makes sure that the design contributes to the intended user experience. 
 
In the specific case of the “The family’s meal”, which has been the role of usability?
It has been crucial, from the very beginning, to transfer the experience a user has while cooking with one of Ferran Adrià’s cookbooks in his hands to that he may have with an app. 
We had to conduct an in-depth study of the target users, assess their needs, elaborate on the change of media (from a book to a tablet) and create an app that could be easier than reading a book. That was our challenge.
It took a lot of hard work, of which all of the Usability team feels very proud. We applied a number of techniques to guarantee usability, such as focus groups, ethnographic studies and card sorting. We also carried out 54 wireframes with their corresponding user tests and evaluations.
We even put ourselves in the user’s shoes and started to cook using the book. We also asked some family members to do the same.
 
Why should usability always be involved in an app development process?
Because it’s the key to developing successful apps. Perhaps this is yet at an early stage in Spain, but the companies that go for it, such as Neo, are stepping ahead of the rest and they are standing out for the benefits delivered to their customers.
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