“The user experience scene will soon experience a paradigm shift from consultant services to software for do-it-yourselfers”
Sounds too good to be true? Well, I wish I had read this article’s statement today amidst the other “UN moving from NY to Montreal” and the akin jokes posted on the Web for April’s fool…Even though I clearly understand what is meant by this type of bold statement and can foresee the tendency in our industry, I cannot help but feel annoyed and only partly agree with such stance which you can read often and more lately…and which resonance goes beyond an April 1st joke…
A tool can consist of a software solution or a methodological approach in the scientific sense of the mesuring tool (the survey for instance), it still remains just a tool though. Tools are instruments, they are means not brains, no matter how much built-in intelligence can be considered in some cases… Computers are undoubtedly useful but haven’t replaced the need for people to use them to achieve their various professional and personal goals.
“To what purpose?“, “How to optimize the tool’s use?” or “How to exploit the results obtained?” are still crucial questions which answers require saavy professionals with background experience in their activity domain, combining Art and Science approaching/reasoning modes in a creative process that no software can mimick. “Because that’s how information is – it’s all just bits – and the software can’t make those decisions for us“, to quote Lew McCreary, even though his comment concerned more specifically information and Privacy (What was Privacy?, HBR, October 2008).
As far as automated user testing is concerned for instance, I definitely believe that sofware-based solutions can solidly assist us in our day-to-day work as usability consultants: Camtasia Morae and Uservue solutions from Techsmith have been incorporated in our toolbox for a while now and there is no turning back, except maybe switching for quasi-equivalent software solutions which are now available to download for free…
But to go any further than that with automated tools and claiming a paradigm shift in usability implying consultancy retirement is clearly prematured, not to say oversimplistic (or unrealistic). It is underestimating how in parallel, user experience is a phenomemon that keeps getting more and more complex, with a growing number of electronic channels (e.g.; computer, tv, mobile) to be synchronized in order to harmonize all the customer touch points. A little try-out of automated solutions shows us that simple and complex testing case scenarios should be distinguished before announcing retirement…
The economic downturn surely comes with budget restrictions at all levels and is accompanied by a demand decrease in consultancy services. This strained situation spurs opportunities for consulting firms with creative solutions, and even if the usability paradigm shift announcement does not alarm me yet, I find it very interesting to keep an eye on these innovations and trials…Here is a new one I just heard of for instance:
“A New Zealand company called Optimal Workshop is trying to disrupt the usability space by offering free software that replaces consultants. Instead of hiring someone, you can use Optimal’s web-based products to test mockups, usability, navigation, and site architecture”.
Challmark and Treejack are the 2 web-based usability tools they are offering for free, but for a limited time period of 2 months only.. so go download them and check out how much they can replace “you”…;-).
Read the full article on Optimal Workhop tools.
Related previous posts (in French) about: 14 free tools that reveal why people abandon your site and Speed testing.