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World Usability Day 2006: Making Life Easy

By Silke Ecker, SAP User Experience, SAP AG – December 21, 2006 • Originally published in German in SAP INFO, December 14, 2006

German Version

Who cares about the "World Usability Day?" Why should we be enthusiastic about it? To answer these questions SAP's User Experience experts brought life to a topic, that fascinates not only professionals and theoreticians, but also the general public.

Exchange of ideas in lively atmosphere

Figure 1: Exchange of ideas in lively atmosphere (Photo: G. Waloszek)

Under the motto "Making Life easy," about two hundreds regional participants – interested parties from the general public, students and professionals from SAP and kuehlhaus AG – debated how the most user-friendly interfaces can be designed and delivered. Much to their surprise, they found many similarities among their discussions.

Professor/Designer Kai Beiderwellen, dean of the Institute for Interactive Media, at the University of Mannheim, presented such diverse topics as Web pages and SAP user interfaces, as well as comfortable shoes or vanguard wooden designs with high heels under the term "interfaces." The comfortable shoes may be easy to wear, but do not look attractive, while the vanguard onesthough called "shoes," are completely unsuitable for walking. These examples served to demonstrate the idea that design and functionality have to go together. And they have to do so in a way that creates a pleasant experience for the users for whom the product is made. At SAP we call this "User Experience."

To ensure that software development does not miss the users' needs, SAP's User Experience professionals – located in such diverse locations as Germany, India, China and the USA – support applications from their early conception onward with the SAP User-Centered Design (UCD) process. As the name implies, the focus is on people. In each phase of the development process, users are involved. This is done in order to support the users' goal of performing their work easily and efficiently. Real users' needs, not a set of theoretical ideas, are the basis for the software’s interaction and visual design.

Comfortable shoe

Figure 2 : A comfortable shoe that is easy to walk with – but it looks a litle boring (provided by Prof. K. Beiderwellen)

Shoes or objects of art?

Figure 2: Shoes or objects of art? Good products satisfy the users' expectations (provided by Prof. K. Beiderwellen)

At the start early design sketches for the future screens are checked with users, in order to modify them according to their feedback. And throughout the entire development process prototypes are tested with users. The design is continually improved until the final application satisfies their expectations in the best possible way.

User feedback has shown that it definitely makes a difference, whether an MRP controller is forced to use a software application or whether she actually likes to use it because it makes her daily work substantially easier.

 

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