Benefits of Usability EngineeringUsability engineering offers many benefits. Among them are reduction of failed products, reduction in development time and costs, reduction in training and support costs, increased sales and revenues, and increased productivity.
Every year, millions of dollars are lost in the production and usage of unusable products. This money is wasted due to:
- Lost productivity
- Failed products
- Training and support costs
- Hidden costs of computers
- Unnecessary features
- High development costs
- Lost revenue
- Dissatisfied users
- Schedule slips
The top two reasons projects fail are lack of user involvement and lack of requirements [Standish Group 1995].
46% of all new product development costs go to failures [Business Week], including:
- IBM PCjr: Failed product with a $40 million marketing cost alone
- RCA Videodisk: loss of $500 million
How Did This Occur?Companies and agencies do not typically track the total cost of producing, supporting, and maintaining product. Development teams are usually only tracked and goaled on the initial completion date and initial development costs.
Companies and agencies typically only prioritize usability if they "feel the pain" with lost revenues, lost bids, dissatisfied customers, and high support costs.
A means to convince management that usability engineering is important is to track the costs (both in dollars and qualitative measures) for the total cost of producing, maintaining, and selling the product, comparing costs before usability engineering against costs after usability engineering.
Decreased Support and Maintenance Costs
- 80% of maintenance is due to unmet or unforeseen user requirements;
only 20% is due to bugs or reliability problems [Martin and McClure 1993;
- Microsoft tracks its support call costs and has seen a significant
cost savings resulting from improving the usability of its products, such
as Word [Reed 1992].
- Design changes due to usability work on one project at IDS/American
Express resulted in estimated savings of $45 million [Chalupnik and
- In order to meet its customer support call needs, WordPerfect had to
employ over 900 customer response specialists .
- Design changes from one usability study at Ford Motor Company reduced
the number of calls to the help line from an average of 3 calls to none,
saving the company an estimated $100,000 [Kitsuse 1991].
- 80% of software life cycle costs occur during the maintenance phase
- The cost of change is 1 unit in the definition phase, 1.5-6 units
during the development phase, and 60-100 units after release [Pressman
- While investment in information technology has increased 10,000 times,
the productivity of white-collar workers in the service sector has declined
- $500 Billion is spent annually in the U.S. on computers, networks, and
information technology, with a resulting decrease in productivity [Stephen
Roach, Morgan Stanley, 1992; from Landauer, 1995].
- The average software program has 40 design flaws that impair
employees' ability to use it. The cost in lost productivity is up to 720%
- An analysis of IT budgets from 138 big US firms between 1988 and 1994
indicated that a 67.4% gain in IT budgets increased much more rapidly than
revenue, which was 29.6%, and profit, which was 39.7%. These differences
reflect unfavorably on the contributions of IT [Strassmann 1996].
- Design changes due to usability work at IBM resulted in an average
reduction of 9.6 minutes per task, with a projected internal savings at IBM
of $6.8 Million in 1991 alone [Karat 1990].
- A recent commentary in Fortune Magazine:
"The trouble with software is. . . it sucks. That's not a nice thing to say. . . but it is a fundamental truth. Software customers--you, me, CIO's of multibillion-dollar companies. . . have learned to live with mediocre software. We do not count on software to be intuitively easy to understand or to work consistently. Instead, we make do." [Alsop 1996].