This is a word that JP Lessard, President of Business Software Solutions at Miles Technologies, takes very seriously. For Lessard, who oversees the custom software development and web development teams of the award-winning IT company, usability is a concept – a philosophy – that he brings to work each day. Loaded with client meetings and team development sessions, Lessard’s schedule looks like a game board splashed with colors – all signifying diverse projects in action for hundreds of clients across the United States.
For Lessard, usability does not just mean capable of being used. Usability embodies a culture of thought that Miles Technologies fosters, builds and delivers to its clients to ensure the business software applications and web designs it develops are truly – and absolutely – convenient to use.
Sound easy? Hardly. It takes teams of highly skilled software engineers and web developers – many times working concurrently – to deliver “easy solutions” to the multitude of businesses Miles Technologies proudly serves each day. Lessard is very serious about usability – and here’s why you should be too.
JP, Miles Technologies maintains a philosophy of usability – Usability Principles – that it adheres to in its work with clients. Can you explain what this philosophy entails and why you feel it is so important?
Each project brings its own set of requirements and most times these requirement are quite complex. The goal is always to ensure that projects are delivered on time and that they meet – and exceed – all customer expectations. This is an intentional process, to define, determine and develop software and web applications that are graphically beautiful and robust with functionality. This intentional process is very much a hallmark of how we operate as a company and is spelled out in our Miles Usability Principles.
What are the Miles Usability Principles?
The Miles Usability Principles are: Purposeful, Forgiving, Understandable, Consistent and Simple. Each of these drills deeply into how we work with our clients to ensure that – whether it’s a standard website or a full-blown application with back-end portals – the user experience on the system is seamless, convenient and successful. Each of the Miles Usability Principles was specifically designed to help increase a user’s feeling of ease and comfort in using a Miles-built system.
Why do you share your Usability Principles with clients – and not keep it more of an internal mantra?
We work very closely with our clients. This is not an understatement. With purposeful design, beautiful graphics and aesthetics – all of our systems are built on our core principles of usability. We feel it is important, from the beginning, to share with our clients what our goals are in creating graphical designs that work in unison with a project’s functionality goals – creating an overall inviting, engaging solution. Every
element is purposeful and planned, from colors chosen for a web design to layout, menus, buttons, calls to action, screens, forms and everything you could imagine.
How is Miles Technologies forgiving during this process? Why is Forgiving one of your core principles of usability?
To err is human. No matter how simple, consistent and communicative a site may be, people are always going to make mistakes. We expect this will occur as part of every project we design. We do not believe in a “no do-over” application. With our systems, users can undo previous actions without complicated steps. Users always have a way to go back or to change their minds, particularly for permanent actions. We believe in warnings. We believe in creating systems that continually work with people to help them easily navigate steps and functions. It takes a lot of work to make something look easy, but we do it.
Do you feel there is a misconception that the process of building a new business software application is overwhelming, for businesses looking to create new ways of working more effectively?
The process of building a new software system can seem daunting for any business, especially if they have never attempted to do so previously. That is why we have Understandable, Consistent and Simple in the Miles Usability Principles we share with our clients. By Understandable, we mean a user should never have to guess about what they are doing. Accurate and precise feedback on actions is important, from confirmation of messages to progress bars to error messages the use simple language. We believe users should be able to easily identify and understand main functions and receive proactive feedback. We believe websites should be consistent in appearance and behavior. As for applications, we believe they should allow users to quickly and easily accomplish their goals, with minimal effort and minimal clicks. We believe in keeping things simple.
If there is one thing you would like people to understand about Miles Usability Principles, what would it be?
That there is comfort in consistency. That there should be no surprises. That we feel it is our job to ensure a smooth process and make sense of everything. In short, I hope people understand that we will work very hard to keep things very simple.
Special thanks to JP Lessard for her expertise in custom software and software development strategies. For more information on custom software for business, Contact Us.