The "usability is common sense" syndrome...

... and the "let's have a look” and the “huge uncategorized lists” complications.

As I have pointed out several times in this pages in many organizations usability is considered a "non issue" or, even worst, a disturbance to the fast flow of production processes.

Sometimes for some reasons comes out the idea that a product should be usable.

I'm a simple minded person and in this situation I would find normal to hire or consult an expert to help in the design and check. You need security you ask an expert for security, you need performance you ask a system engineer help to make your system performance good. The mechanism should be the same you use for a lot of other problems: you need to open a new windows in your house wall and get an architect, you want to get rid of that pain in the neck every morning and try to find a solution with your doctor...

No way! In a lot of organization the idea is that web is special and should be addressed in a sort of special way.

The idea that usability is only a matter of common sense is considered a correct one and an "expert" come out of the blue, magically.

A marketing guy with a lot of experience in using web pages, but zero knowledge about ergonomics, a system engineer with a lot of experience in system design and tuning, but zero knowledge of color theory… they come out and suddenly are created “usability experts” and begin to go around judging pages and solutions using the only instrument tay have: common sense!

From that moment on a sort of Mary Poppins capable to judge every page and easily solve all the usability problems is magically available!

This syndrome is strictly connected with “we are alla web designer” one and has several possible complications.

Among them the “let's have a look” one.

Mary Poppins has no real methods because all the problems are easy to solve: “A spoonful of sugar and the medicine goes down…”. So instead of making a formal analysis in preparation for a meeting where the different stakeholders, better if adopting an agile approach, may discuss and find a solution they just sit in front of a screen and go on page by page in a system they have never seen using their common sense to judge pages that have been designed using time and effort under some constraints.

The result is a long check list of non prioritised nonhomogeneous items very disturbing for the project team that risks to lose a lot of time in what may be technically identified as bullshit issues losing the appropriate focus on the real ones! They never write documents, only PowerPoint and Excel where they put the “huge uncategorized lists”.

Usability is NOT common sense, usability is a technology using a lot of different scientific assumptions and the only way to really learn about it is to study!


Any resemblance to real events and/or to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental

Licenza Creative Commons | Credits