WUD 2005: Survey on the UCD integration in the industry

Article published on November 04, 2005 under User centered design

WUD2005 is ended and I want to share informations about the most interesting panel that treats on a survey conducted by Giorgio Venturi and Jimmy Troost in order to gather statistical data about the UCD integration in the business model of european enterprises. This research, financed by european union, was performed spreading out, between the end of 2003 and the first half of 2004, a web questionnaire to a pool of usability practitioners each selected as delegate of their company usability department. 83 practitioners completed successfully the survey in a time frame of 40 days.

General results

The first important data obtained from the survey was that most of practitioners were human factor specialists (34%) or user interface designers (33%) with a UCD experience evaluated between 5 and 13 years. This result emphasize that UCD needs an optimal technical background and a targeted study career; moreover, most of the companies involved in the survey where HCI/Usability consultancies which made of usability their core business. The image to the left-hand side shows how business sector is distributed between interviewed companies.

Sample frequencies related to business sector

Sample frequencies related to business sector

Investment in usability are mostly put into practice by large companies, and financing cames from research and development budget as can be seen in the following results:

  • Research and development (48%)
  • Project budget (36%)
  • Annual budget (31%)

The result showed in the above paragraph enhanced how usability in Europe is considered as a form of research and not as a fixed element integrated in the business lifecycle. Another important implicit fact underlines that usability has a major weight in companies where at least one of management representative is an usability practitioner.

Methods and techniques employed in business lifecycle

Interviewed practitioners were asked about methods used in UCD and in which phase of product lifecycle these techniques were applied. Results are shown in the following list:

  • User interview (80%)
  • High prototyping (75%)
  • Low prototyping (72%)
  • Expert and heuristic evaluation (70%)
  • Quick and dirty usability tests (69%)
  • Observation of real usage (67%>

Other methods used by practitioners were scenarios, style guide development and early human analysis, but their application was not widespread (each was less than 50%) in comparison with the other techniques. The methods mentioned above are mostly employed in the requirements, analysis and design phase.in spite of than less than 33% used these techniques during deployment phase. This result conform with general expectations because applying UCD rules in later development process can be excessively expensive with an exponential decrease of ROI.

Another important variables that bear on UCD are company management and infrastructure availability. Factors that influence usability integration in product lifecycle are:

  • UCD practitioners in company executives
  • Usability department
  • Usability incentives
  • Internal and external communication

Conclusions

UCD in Europe is best integrated in enterprises rather than little companies, but with a relatively low ratio: usability practitioners infact represent a little caste between all company employees (except for consultancies that made of UCD their core business). User centered design is facilitated in industry by factors related to management support, incentives, funds, infrastructure (laboratories and equipments) and also by internal and external communication. Infact, exchanging data and informations between the different professionals involved in product lifecycle enhances the possibility of a major return of investment.


Learn more

More informations can be found on paper entitled Survey on the UCD integration in the industry published by Giorgio Venturi and Jimmy Troost.