These days I work in a User Research department. Ah, user research, I hear you say, that’s about usability! Well, yes, but that isn’t all it is.
Here is a post from Leisa at Disambiguity in which she illustrates very clearly the way I see things. Creating something that people will use is a little more involved than worrying about whether or not they can use it. Creating a compelling user experience starts much earlier than the positioning of buttons.
Understanding the way people behave and what motivates and excites them is what your proposition needs to tap into to be on the way to creating something that will be used. We can fiddle with the interface, make it easier, make it look nicer, make it more logical, faster but if an idea, product or service is fundamentally flawed there is very little that can be done. Just to nip back to my architect analogy for a second – if the foundations are not sound, the building will fall down.
Luckily for me, most of the projects I get involved with these days involve user research at the strategic stage. I like helping to shape things. The business requirements are considered hand in hand with the user behaviours. Later we move on to usability.