Why Usability is Important
Firstly, usability is the measure of the ability of a user’s experience with your intranet, product, app, portals, online courses or any other programme.
Therefore, the importance of usability is paramount as if your user’s experience is poor then they won’t use it again. It’s really that simple.
What Has Usability Got to Do with Employee Engagement
With regards to employee engagement, usability challenges are with your intranet and any other internal communications tools (such as project management, collaboration or chat tools). The principles are the same for as websites and products. If the experience is poor, then the user will use their first line of defence which is to leave.
Let’s say you have brought in a fantastic new piece of software that you think will improve productivity dramatically, but no one is using it. Then there’s a problem. And the problem is probably with usability. There’s also a chance, at this stage, that you didn’t communicate clearly what the benefits are of the software, so the uptake has been bad, but let’s assume it’s down to the usability.
Clarity International have spent over 10 years designing and developing user-friendly software and intranets for clients such as Teva, BT and Alcatel-Lucent. So we know a thing or two about the importance of usability in work like this.
We’ve already written a guide on designing a successful intranet, and now we would like to take a look at reasons as to why your intranet may not be engaging your employees – and in this case, it’s down to a lack of usability.
Why Is My Usability So Poor?
Design is at the heart of usability issues. It’s hard to cover it all to be honest.
There are many design aspects that can affect usability such as navigation, simplicity, language and tone voice, consistency, usefulness and so much more. These are aspects of design that are strongly led by usability. It’s a complex picture and each has its own set of principles, but let’s just say that poor design is one of the leading reasons why users have poor experiences.
Too Much Info
If you overload your intranet with pages and pages of information, then the user is going to have a hard time finding anything that is of any help to them. Even if you overload one page with too much information then this is going to have a negative impact on the user.
You have to keep the information relevant and interesting – and engaging where possible! Another piece of valuable advice is to keep your information fresh. If it never changes, then why on earth would someone go back to read it again.
Calls to Action
Again, this is a design issue. Clear calls-to-action are a must. If your end-user is required to do something, let’s say respond to a poll, then it has to be clear how to respond. If it isn’t, they won’t do it and they won’t ever do it again.
We have all been there – on a website (or mostly using Excel; only joking), trying to complete a task and giving up then never attempting to do it again as it is too complex.
Make your calls-to-action easy and your users will return time and time again, provide you with some excellent engagement and feedback from you employees.
At Clarity International, we talk time and time again about how we build everything to be usable on every device, both online and offline. This is a core principle for us, as we know that the world is rapidly changing as we have more and more people working remotely, meaning people must be able to work on mobiles and tablets, as well as desktops and laptops. If you don’t make your intranet responsive you will be in big trouble very soon.
Custom Portals for Employees
Not every employee wants to see the same things on your intranet. If a sales person logs in, then why not provide them with relevant information straight away? The same applies for someone in HR or finance. Much of the design of the page will be the same, but some parts of the wireframe can be populated with dynamic content for that department or perhaps for that level of employee.
This is a very good method of keeping your employees engaged and will undoubtedly keep them coming back for more.
And How Do I Improve It?
Easy – we have a guide called 6 Tips to Boost Your Intranet’s Usability. There are 6 excellent tips in here that will help you to avoid the pitfalls we have mentioned above.
Is There An ROI for Usability
Investing in usability is a must for enhancing your employee engagement. There are real, tangible benefits associated and it’s not only the costs and savings associated.
Firstly, let’s think of your developers who are building the intranet. Usability needs to be at the core of the design stage. So, if it isn’t and something is an afterthought which requires more development then you’ll be doubling up on your development costs. We’ve previously written about “use cases” and “user stories” and the impact that they have on software development.
The initial design and usability study of your intranet will determine what the development costs are. It should not be that usability comes after the design and development as no one is using it after launch!
You also want to ensure that there are limited support costs. You really don’t want to have your user constantly getting in touch with your support team to ask how to do something on the intranet. That time, for both the user and the support, can add up to huge costs. The easier the intranet is for the user to do their tasks, then the lower the drain on other’s resources.
Jakob Nielsen, the esteemed usability expert, summarised this in 2003:
“Development projects should spend 10% of their budget on usability. Following a usability redesign, websites increase desired metrics by 135% on average; intranets improve slightly less.” Source Neilsen Norman Group
That is a phenomenal increase in the desired metrics (which included sales, traffic, productivity and feature usage). I am sure you’ll agree that the ROI speaks for itself. If you don’t consider usability then you’ll be missing out on a whole lot more than just engaging with your employees.