Keeping it Real: Usability in Our Daily Lives
Unit 1, Section 1, Overview
Before moving on to the rest of the content head over to the Unit 1, Section 1, assessment page to answer a few quiz questions.
Before formally defining usability, I want us to first ground the concept in its day-to-day significance to our daily life. Let’s begin.
One of the reasons why I’m so passionate about usability is because of how applicable it is to me and my personal life.
So, for example, let’s look at why I drive a Ford Expedition SUV. I was in my Toyota Celica at a stoplight. Behind me was a big, brawny Ford Expedition. My rear view mirror captured what happened next. I saw a BMW heading straight toward us, but it was not stopping as its driver was busy talking on a cell phone. It was moving fast.
Several thoughts occurred to me in those brief moments. Do I run the light? That SUV right behind me is going to crush my little Celica, and then boom, impact! The BMW crumpled as most of its hood went underneath the SUV, and the SUV barely moved at all, not even coming close to being pushed into my car.
Everyone was miraculously okay, but I never forgot that helpless moment when my life literally flashed before my eyes.
So, a year later we had a young son and a daughter on the way. At work, I received a frightening phone call from my wife, who was pregnant. She was driving slowly in a residential neighborhood in a grey Camry when a large work van that did not see her turned left and drove right into her car. The impact crushed the right side of the car but luckily my wife and unborn daughter were not hurt.
The driver was a 17-year-old high school student driving on his third suspended license. He was very apologetic and said he never saw my wife’s grey car. That was it. I had enough. Although it was a big stretch financially for a young family, we decided to purchase and invest in a big, red Ford Expedition. The purchase was an investment into my family’s future safety and comfort. The decision was first and foremost a question of usability.
The two primary core factors of usability are utility, which is how useful or relevant something is, and ease of use. The Expedition, while not fuel efficient, was high in both utility and ease of use. Given both my wife and I’s experiences, we decided that a big, red vehicle would be both easy to see and also big and heavy as protection against other drivers. It was high in utility. In terms of ease of use, an SUV is just as easy to drive as a van and has high passenger and payload capacity for a growing family. The SUV could not be higher in usability, protection and ability to carry a large number of people at one time.
Fast forward six years after purchasing the Expedition and now we have three kids. We’re loaded up for a camping trip and headed to the mountains, when traffic comes to a complete and unexpected stop on the freeway. Everyone successfully stops ahead of me but behind us, a smaller SUV does not. It rear ends us from behind. Again, the SUV does its job. The smaller SUV’s hood goes under our bumper, and our SUV absorbed all of the impact. Very little damage to our vehicle, much more damage to the other vehicle. Again, everyone was fortunately okay.
The driver, another 17-year-old, driving this time without a license. Our big red SUV again performed exactly as we had intended it to in one brief defining moment. It has only been in this one accident, and it safely absorbed the impact of the SUV that hit us from behind, and then a few hours later safely took us to the mountains for our camping trip. This is a clear example of the power of usability and its very significant impact, its application has on my own personal life.
Now, it’s your turn. I want you to examine the products and services you use frequently on a day-to-day basis. Which ones are high in utility and ease of use for you? Go to the Section 1 discussion area and share your examples with the other learners taking this MOOC. How similar and/or different are they than yours?
Thank you for joining me, and I hope you will join me in some of the other units and sections throughout this MOOC. If you’re working through the MOOC sequentially, then next you’ll want to answer a few review questions, discuss the discussion topics with others, and then complete the hands-on activity as the final concluding action to this and each section. See you soon.