CUA of the Month – October, 2005

Rajesh Gode
"Software interfaces are very critical and can seriously hurt efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and branding if they're not developed in a user-centric way."
 
Rajesh Gode
Senior Interaction Designer
Persistent Systems - India

"Usability is the wave of the future"

by Jesse Berkowitz

As a graphic artist working on corporate Web sites, intranets, and applications, Rajesh Gode sensed the shortcomings of the "traditional" approach to design. Talking with analysts, gathering requirements, developing code... all of these steps were needed, yet something was missing: understanding the people who actually use the end product.

After hearing about usability from several colleagues, Rajesh began to research the field, but wasn't certain that activities such as "user-centered analysis" or "usability testing" would interest him. However, he quickly saw how much usability enhances the interface design and navigation.

"In my earlier work at two major software companies, the user was never at the center of the development process," says Rajesh. "Their needs were taken for granted on many fronts, and usability was often compromised because of technology-driven features or even just aesthetics. But software interfaces are very critical and can seriously hurt efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and branding if they're not developed in a user-centric way."

Rajesh realized that he'd be more involved throughout the development lifecycle as a usability expert than as a graphic designer. His work at each phase of development supports the next steps. Previously, Rajesh often received design specifications from someone else and was simply asked to implement them. Now he applies usability techniques to identify the optimum information architecture and task flows, which then dictate the site's appearance and page designs.

"Looking back at the sites I created before learning about user-centered design, I can see many things I would've done differently," observed Rajesh. "For instance, we developed one site that sold agricultural products to farmers, but never really considered whether they would understand the terminology we were using. Plus, many of these rural farmers didn't own computers, so they could only get online at busy Internet cafes, meaning they couldn't spend much time on the site. This made it even more critical that our product categories were intuitive and the site was easy to use. But none of these factors were taken into account."

After completing the CUA training program, Rajesh was immediately able to put the knowledge to practical use.

"I started doing task analysis, paper prototyping, and usability testing, right away," he says. "One project I had been working on was Performance Management Software that let managers monitor and evaluate their employees. Previously, the managers had to complete 7 different tasks that were all on the same screen. But once we did our task flow analysis, we found it'd make more sense to use a wizard format—separating the steps into a logical sequence over several screens (which also let us tailor each page design to match the task flow and begin standardizing common page types). This was especially important because these managers were not computer experts, nor were they eager to learn anything complicated. Plus, they only used this part of the application 4-6 times per year, so self-evidency and ease of learning were critical."

Rajesh has taken to his new role as a usability analyst with incredible enthusiasm.

"I am quite sure that becoming a CUA has helped me professionally to scale new heights in user-centered design. It gives me a competitive edge and empowers me during the software design process. After taking all four HFI training modules, I can feel that usability is the need of time. Last decade we saw the overuse of technology, but usability is the new wave of the future."

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to hfi@humanfactors.com

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