Too much focus on usability

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

Often we focus on usability too much.


Don't focus on usability. Focus on solving the problem in order for the user to reach the goal in an easy, less stressful manner. Do we, by solving the usability problem, enable the user to reach their goal? Here are two examples of why we should look at the bigger picture.


Case 1

A big live insurance company. I tried to log on to my portfolio (via their website). And, as often the case with many of us, i could not remember the password as i very seldom log on to this particular website.

I selected "forgot password", received an SMS with a temp password. It didn't work. I received a "Gateway timed out" error message on their website. I phoned their call centre, waited 7 minutes listening to awful music. Put the phone down. Tried again. Sent numerous emails. Completed their "Call Back" form on their website. I am still waiting for their phone call.

Short version: it took me two weeks to solve the issue. I had an IT guy phoning me and with my coding background we were able to solve the issue.

Take away: the website was usable. It looked cool - big fonts and big submit buttons and all. But.....it did not solve the problem, well, eventually it did; it did not help me reach my goal at the time i urgently required a tax certificate.


Case 2:

A Provincial Government opened up Walk-in centres for citizens whereby citizens could browse the Internet for free.


I was a Service Design consultant contracted to the Local Government at the time. Our UX team visited the walk-in centres in an effort to find pain points in order to make the lives of citizens easier.


I watched some of the UX Practitioners interviewing the visitors to the walk-in centres. They were so much focused on the usability of the website they created - asking the visitors all kinds of questions based on the usability of the website they had created.


I decided to ask non-usability questions and found some great insights:

  1. "i like the free Internet but i am scared of my bicycle being stolen while i am inside. What can i do?"

  2. "Yes, i can use the system, but look at the mud on my shoes and where do i put my grocery bags"? (The walk-in centre was on a little uphill with all but a gravel walk-way to get there. The closest taxi rank was about 200m downhill. Visitors had to walk all the way on this uneven and muddy walk way to get to the walk-in centre. And, they had to carry their groceries with them.

Look at the bigger picture. User Experience is not about usability. User Experience - the name says it all.

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