The Usability Factor and the Effort Equation

Wednesday, 18 May 2011   |   Creative Thinking

ScalesYou're in the middle of your latest project,  your latest creative endeavor.  It's going to be awesome.  The idea is great.  Everyone who uses it is going to think it's great.  Or are they?  It's easy to get carried away and lose track of the bigger picture.

Your creation will be used according to the following equation:

Usability Factor = Benefit + Excitement - Effort

If Effort is greater than Benefit + Excitement it won't be used.

Excitement isn't always going to be the most suitable positive emotion depending on what it is you are creating.  Feel free to replace it with another term such as Happiness or Enjoyment if it suits the situation better.

If your creation is for entertainment then Benefit will probably be low and Excitement will be high.

If your creation is a tool or gadget then Benefit should be high.  Excitement will tend to be high when you first start using it but will wear off over time.  This is why we often get a new gadget and use them heaps.  Over time we use it less and less however,  causing the typical Fad scenario.

You have the ability to influence all three of these elements.  Virtually every design choice will have an impact on all three. 

Take the decision to add a new feature to your creation for instance.  Here are some questions you should consider:

  • How much Benefit will the feature add?
  • How much extra Effort will the feature add,  both in terms of using the feature and side effects such as increasing the complexity of the user interface?
  • Can I design the output or the way in which the feature is used to add Excitement value?

If the end result is a negative impact on the Usability Factor then you need to consider not adding the feature or changing your implementation of the feature to be simpler or more exciting.

Creative thinking can always help you tip the Usability Factor in your favor.


Remember to check back next Wednesday when our next Creative Thinking Resource will be released.

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