Putting ‘You’ in Usability

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/CARMENMURILLO

As a dietitian, I never thought that usability testing and user-centered product design would be part of my vocabulary, let alone tasks I would be actively involved in. According to Usability.Gov, “user experience (UX) focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.” This is the heart of usability: Can users of a product or service find what they need, when they need it, and is it a pleasurable experience or one of dread? 

We all are users of products in our daily lives and, as health professionals, we are in the usability business — we want to create nutrition products and services that meet the needs of our patients and clients, AKA our users. It is prudent to understand how efforts can be made to test products and tools before, during and after development, yet too often this step is skipped due to the potential costs, both in time and money, of conducting usability testing.

While there are businesses and experts that specialize in doing this type of testing both onsite at organizations and at independent testing facilities, there are resources that can be utilized by anyone interested in gathering feedback on a website, app, software program, training, etc. Usability.Gov offers templates and downloadable tools, and there are other online tools that allow for setting up remote usability testing, which translates into reaching users where they are.

By taking the time to “see” users engage in actions and tasks, such as entering daily food intake into an app that is being developed, it can help us see where the trouble areas are and where the user gets frustrated. This makes our end-product not only a better experience for the user, but a better value for our hard work.

Kathleen Pellechia on Twitter
Kathleen Pellechia
Kathleen Pellechia, RDN is a nutrition and health informatics consultant and is the electronic resources coordinator for the WIC Works Resource System of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is a member of the Academy's Nutrition Informatics Committee and its Consumer Informatics Workgroup.