Turd polishing

So I'm frustrated about work lately. I am the recognized usability person, but am not consulted until late in the process. My boss mentioned explaining to a client that bugs take much more to fix later in the process. I mentioned the same was true of usability.

I'm trying to get involved earlier, but the idea that a regular employee should be in charge of organizing a site isn't an idea that's bought off on. I feel like I'm doing what Scott Berkun called, in a somewhat different context, turd polishing. I can't make the changes that will actually make a difference, only try to limit the damage.

An example:

I looked at a competitor's horrible interface for an online application. The buttons had purple text with a black background. No, I'm not kidding. Even worse, though, from my point of view, was how muddy the progression from screen to screen was. There were simply too many ways of going ahead, and the meaning of the labels was unclear.

But we're being influenced by the button layout, if not the horrific button colors. I said, Hey, we aren't making the same aesthetic mistake, why should we make the usability mistakes they're making. I said, You rip off are influenced by Amazon, not those godawful home pages with the animated rainbows. So the layout was changed, I think, somewhat, but not to anything that felt anywhere close to right.

On a usability test for another site I worked on, after the usability test, I did a brief Q and A, sort of like Contextual Inquiry only not as structured, as I hadn't read that yet. The user had the completely unreasonble view that our web site should be faster than the old way of doing it which involved phone calls and postal mail.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, June 5, 2002 (Link)


Posted by J Kelliher Friday, June 7, 2002 at 03:44 AM

I must agree with you. I find that as a usability person the company I work for does not realise that I should be involved in the majority of what's going on in the company and at an early stage at that. I think that this is understandable as usability is a bit new to them. I advise making a big deal about being incluede, organise a presentation about some aspect of usability and get on your soapbox then !! However, do so as diplomatically as possible, you don 't want to be completely excluded in the future :)

Posted by Chad Lundgren Friday, June 7, 2002 at 01:19 PM

I'm doing a presentation for a client next week on usability. I think I will give a similar presentation here: people often give technical presentations here. I'll probably throw in some more stuff about GOMS and ROI numbers in the internal presentation.

Thanks for the suggestion.