WQ Usability Skip to main content
     Home     What we do     Storytelling for User Experience     Articles and downloads     About us


The Research Triangle

If market research tells us what consumers want....usability helps us learn how to deliver on that promise and when we have succeeded.

A few years ago, an elementary school built a new library. The architect was not allowed to talk to the librarians, or even to get a first-hand look at how the students and teachers used the facility. When it was done, the staff toured the new library, and everyone thought it looked beautiful. When the first students came in, picked out their books and went to check them out. Then, everyone started laughing: the third graders were not tall enough to see over the counter.

This seems like a silly mistake, but we build software that way all the time. How many product managers or developers work for years on a product and never meet any of the people who will use it? Or base their designs on assumptions about the market that are never tested?

That's where usability comes in.

When we know little about the people who will use a product, usability fills the gap with site visits, personas, and other analysis. But when market research is available, it can - and should - work together with usability to amplify and inform.

When you combine market research, usability and user research, and expert design practice, you have a way to listen to both the mass market and individual users; to suggest design solutions and to test whether they work.

Where market research looks at mass demographics, usability is interested in a qualitative understanding of people as individuals with a history, goals, interest and a relationship to the web site or product. And, it is especially interested in the different ways people behave - what they do and how they interact.

User research looks at a few specific individuals, and builds a design concept around what we learn from them.

What makes this group of people a group?
Their age, gender or other demographics?
Their economic status or where they live?
Common interests or experiences?

What do they want?
What are their needs, preferences, goals?

How can we meet those needs?
Features? Content? Design style?






Other articles and resources

Storytelling: Using Narrative to Communicate Design Ideas
Storytelling is a powerful way to explain complex concepts, and present a vision for a design.

Personas - Bringing Users Alive
This is an overview of personas and how they can help bring a better understanding of users to your project.

The Politics of Design
Listening to real people is an important aspect of design. This talk looks at the political issues behind getting this concept accepted.

Lessons from the InfoWeb - Creating a Successful Knowledge Management System
Building user centered design into an intranet project.

Using a Style Guide to Build Consensus
A short introduction to the social aspects of style guides.