Recessions Are A Perfect Time To Rethink Application Usability

Marketing budgets are slashed.

Development projects are shelved.

New initiatives are put off.

So why is this the perfect time to rethink usability of your applications? Here’s a few reasons.

Most usability changes are small improvements, not drastic changes

If your application or website is surviving and making revenue, but not increasing in revenue the way that you want, this is the prefect time because most changes are small tweaks versus massive redesigns (or, if you are having to do a massive redesign, you’re probably not going to be around much longer anyways).

Some suggestions:

  • How does your help text read?
  • Do your emails communicate the message plainly enough to encourage better conversion rates?
  • Can you remove screens from the process?
  • Are there bugs that are affecting the user experience?
At a few positions that i’ve worked at, we made changes like this and saw more improvements using less budget than if we had undertaken a large development effort.

Making user experience improvements versus development changes is cheaper

The ratio of time on projects of developers versus user experience architects is about two or three to one, and developers are very expensive. Thus, taking on large-scale projects that may or may not improve your website or web application is a risky proposition, but making changes on a smaller scale where you can measure the results in short, iterative development cycles in much easier to demonstrate to upper management and customers.

Plus with limited resources, you can also cut down the amount of requirements gathering you are doing and have user experience architects work directly with the developers.

User experience changes help keep your current customers happy, and retention is the key to survival in a recession

During periods of a good economy, the key is growth. During recession periods, the key is keeping the customers you do have, because you don’t have to convert them.

It’s best to talk to your customers directly (especially the high value clients), and ask them about your service. Put together a survey of five or six simple questions that are open ended, like:

  • What do you like about the  website?
  • What do you dislike about the  website?
  • How often do you use the website?
  • Do you use it in conjunction with other services?
  • What are websites you like?

Interview ten or so customers, and you’ll be surprised at the insights they gave. One of the insights we got from customers at during a time of recession was that they were familar with eBay as an application. As we redesigned the site to fit the eBay style, revenue went up without any marketing spend.

Thus, we kept our customers happy.

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