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Who is the One User You Should Not Design For?

Here’s a quiz for you. Who make the best mobile bankers?

  • Older Adults
  • Parents of School-Age Children
  • College Student

In a Wells Fargo study, researchers found that financial complexity was more of a driving force for mobile adoption than traditional factors such as age and comfort with technology. Some of the older participants were the most advanced mobile bankers because they managed their own businesses, retirement accounts, and mortgages, while college students often only had a single account.


Surprised? User research can uncover many cases where reality differs from the common-sense answer.  

Why do Software Projects Fail?

Perhaps your last IT project passed QA with flying colors, met budget, delivered every new feature you promised, and was launched on time. However, after project release, the user base overwhelmingly wanted to continue using the system they’d been using for the last seven years.

What went wrong? Many business leaders would guess that you didn’t include end users while defining the project.

A Google search on “why software projects fail” returns millions of results. Looking at the first few returned, the first reason mentioned may be:

  • Not aligning allocated resources with business goals
  • Failure to meet scope of work
  • Unrealistic scheduling
  • Lack of user involvement

Looking closely at one influential source, “lack of user involvement” was tied as the most-reported factor in project failures by the Standish Group’s 2016 CHAOS report. It also was the highest-ranked reason in the CHAOS 2014 survey, also in 2010, in 2009, and has been at or near the top of the list in every year I’ve queried. Guess what topped the list back in 1994?

Lack of user involvement, of course.

Why is Lack of User Involvement Missed?

With this in mind, I was surprised that many of the “why software projects fail” articles oriented at CIOs and project managers made no mention of this factor, but instead listed top causes of failure as missed schedules and budget overrun, often due to project overreach. These are terribly painful outcomes, but it is easy to see how a clear focus on user needs could reduce project overreach, which in turn could mitigate cost and timeline overruns.

As a matter of fact, by ignoring user involvement, it is possible that IT executives are victims of homophily – the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with others based on similarities rather than differences. “The most insidious part of this homophilic bubble is how natural and self-evident the beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors generated within it appear to be,” Bill Selman writes.

User Experience research is a must so you don’t fall into the trap of believing that all users fall into your “bubble” of similarities.

Include Users in your Design and Testing Process

While its value for public-facing software projects has been widely recognized in recent years, user research should be part of enterprise projects as well. Including users in your design and testing process can:

  • Help companies refine a project’s aims by identifying the most valuable problems to solve.
  • Prevent usability and experience problems by testing and correcting them within the design cycle.
  • Increase adoption of new software. Users who participate in the project will serve as advocates for the new product.

For more benefits of UX research and a deeper understanding of how to involve users earlier to reduce software project failure, download NIIT Technologies’ white paper, The Case for User Experience Research.

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