Usability Engineering: The Difference Between Product Success & Failure

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Developing a new product is an enormous undertaking. In the best cases, new products go to market in time to capitalize on the market opportunity, and succeed by experiencing wide user adoption. In many cases, however, products are unable to find acceptance in the marketplace or are never released at all. 

What makes the difference between a great product and a failure?

Applying usability engineering (UE) to the development of new products results in benefits that accumulate both during the product development process and after the release of a product.

So, what exactly is usability engineering, and why does it matter to development?

Usability engineering is the process of understanding a product’s users, intended use and use environments, and applying that knowledge to the development of new products.

The UE process begins with user research to understand the user’s needs, goals, motivations, behaviors, and the environments in which users will interact with the product. This deep understanding of the user and their needs is translated into product requirements that drive the product development process.

Based on these requirements, the design team develops and refines concepts, and the usability engineer conducts user testing with prototypes in an iterative fashion to identify and correct usability issues before product launch.

Advantages of Understanding Your Users Early in the Product Development Process

Understanding your users and applying this information to the product development process results in many advantages, including:

  • Data-driven design decisions – by providing data on real users and their interactions with product prototypes, UE takes the guesswork and opinion out of making design decisions and provides concrete, objective evidence that can be used as the basis for the decision making process.


  • Reduced time to market – UE enables you to streamline the product development process by systematically identifying requirements before product design begins, as well as fix any issues that have surfaced in earlier prototyping sessions. This reduces delays associated with identification of new requirements during development and enables you to make changes during development rather than after launch when it is much more costly and time consuming.


  • Reduced overall risk – UE enables you to test product/market fit early in the design process and make adjustments before launching the product, giving you the best chance of achieving commercial success.


  • Increased sales – UE enables you to tailor your product to the users’ needs throughout development, ensuring that the final product will resonate with end users, leading to increased customer satisfaction and increased adoption.


  • Reduced support and customer service costs – A more usable product will require less support and customer service, allowing you to continue to reap the financial benefits of a user centered design process well after the product reaches the market.

All of these opportunities for capturing a return on investment result in a strong business case for applying usability engineering to every product development.

In addition to ensuring that the right product is being developed for your audience, UE provides multiple advantages to the development process. Including Usability Engineering in your product design process will reap benefits for years to come.