What is Usability, anyway? (was 'User' BusinessAnalyst - apparently)

19 Nov 2004 - 5:38pm
603 reads

I maintain that design, usability and customer focus will work virtually
every time and for anybody.

Amen! I would just add a "all things being equal" to this statement.
There are a few things that can throw a wrench into the gears:
government regulations, natural disasters, lack of resources/time,
marketing, management, etc.



Lyle Kantrovich
User Experience Architect

Croc O' Lyle - Personal Commentary on usability, information
architecture and design.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
- Leonardo da Vinci

-----Original Message-----
From: listera at rcn.com [mailto:listera at rcn.com]
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2004 3:38 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] What is Usability, anyway? (was 'User'
BusinessAnalyst - apparently)

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted

> But, you are a brilliant person. Go back to your own quip ­ IBM
> consulting dollars vs. license sales data, and also look at Apple's
> market share, etc.

Hmm. IBM once owned the PC business ("IBM-compatible") and wanted to
the desktop OS business (OS/2 Warp). They managed to waste it away,
IBM is not even in the desktop PC/OS business. From micro-payment
systems to
hw system architectures, IBM's corporate history is full of examples of
inability to understand its market and, ultimately, user needs to create
stuff people want to buy.

Unlike IBM, Apple still has a PC business and has its own OS. Apple and
are not direct competitors, as Apple doesn't play in the enterprise,
for XServe. And, like I said, in markets where an illegally obtained and
leveraged monopoly is not dominant, Apple does extraordinarily well, in
or sw. It's been the best S&P stock this year and one of only two
major PC manufacturers. It grew its iPod and Apple Store businesses from
zero to $1billion+ each in <3 years, both unique in American corporate
history and in spite of clueless industry punditry.

All this would border on religious irrelevance if it weren't for the
that Apple has managed to do this with market focus, user focus and
focus, our topic here.

> They must tell you something, that "design must be
> derived from context"?

It tells me that design, usability and customer focus can be
> Suppose you are invited by management group to come and talk about how
> can they improve one of their very key application. It is sold to
> enterprises and not directly to those who use it. It has been 3 years
> since it was first launched and management thinks that it is time to
> revisit design. The first challenge for you is to define the "design"
> objectives/goals.

Well, you describe what I actually do for a living. :-) But I often
one layer up and (re)consider business goals before I consider design

> Who is the user here?

The one who actually uses the app. The other is my customer.

> What may be morally confusing thouhgts in your mind?

You know, in NYC, we have a lot of online marketing companies. I've been
approached about a number of lucrative but dubious products/strategies
the years. It doesn't take me long to turn them down.

As an outsider, I rarely get into these moral dilemmas. I know who pays
checks. But, generally speaking, those who are bent on screwing their
wouldn't be soliciting the help of someone like me.

> What works for Apple may not work for others

I maintain that design, usability and customer focus will work virtually
every time and for anybody. Now, it may take many different disguises,
you can't sustain a business by going against these fundamentals for a

> But the fact that IBM is so good with their basic research, or Ease of
> yet can't apply them in market place, should tell us something.

Yes, it tells us that IBM lost a multi-gazillion dollar business to

> I am with your side, sentimentally, emotionally and deep from my
> values. However, it does not make sense from business perspective.
> Businesses sole aim is to maximize profit.

Again, look at at Apple. Design & Profits, beautiful harmony. :-)
Then look at a company run by midgets, like Gateway. Then tell me design
doesn't sell!

> Businesses today needs more from us than what we assume with
> our biases.

I agree.

>> We can profit while we're serving design sensibilities. Example?
> A complete outlier to the context :-)

When Sony has begun to outright copy Apple's business and design
you know we're not talking about a unique case any longer. ;-)

Nullius in Verba

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