Instead of learn and launch the new mantra should be launch and learn.
Jakob Nielsen recently came out with some interesting data on usability:
Six years ago, we conducted a survey of design projects and found that, after redesigning for usability, the average improvement in key performance indicators (KPI) was 135%. We’ve recently completed a new survey, and this time the average improvement was 83%. The return on investment (ROI) for usability is now smaller, since the cost has remained approximately constant, as the benefits have decreased.
The ROI for usability has decreased for the first time. What does this mean? There are several theories that immediately come to mind. Maybe we are reaching a plateau for usability. People are much more familiar with the internet and standards have been established. Even mediocre designers are now starting to follow basic design standards and the bar has generally risen.
It’s more likely, however, that the rise in search engine sophistication has had a bigger impact. If a site is set up well for search many people won’t all be coming through your homepage. They will be going directly to the page with the information they are searching for. This is especially true for pharma where we are not selling to users directly, instead the ultimate goal should be to support the brand and communicate with the provider, patient and caregiver communities.
Of course usability is still critically important but now it should be viewed in a much bigger context. Websites don’t sit in isolation, so it is less meaningful to set up a focus group and test usability before launch. Instead of learn and launch the new mantra should be launch and learn. Understand your user, set up your KPIs, design using best practices, launch, pay attention to your analytics, continually modify your site. The context is changing every day and that affects true meta usability.