Charles Mingus and the first World Usability Day in Sportsbet

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity”

Charles Mingus was one of the greatest jazz double bassists and composers of his generation. When a journalist asked him in an interview in the late 1970s on his advice towards the younger jazz composers he famously stated the adjacent quote. His words encapsulate the essence of what every individual who is actively engaged with technology ‘making and shaping’ strives to achieve e very day. They also hint another important asset of the product lifecycle process — usability.

In its initial definition — in the early 1980s — usability was perceived as the “ease of use and learnability of a human-made object”. As the field of Human Computer Interaction (the design and use of computer technology) matured, the definition was expanded to include the effectiveness (can users complete tasks and achieve goals with a product), efficiency (how much efforts do users require to complete a task), and satisfaction (what do users think about the products’ ease of use) when interacting with a product. To celebrate and further educate all active (and non-active) stakeholders of a product lifecycle process, the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) introduced a yearly worldwide event called ‘World Usability Day’ (WUD) in 2005. For UX professionals (including designers and research) the “extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use” is our way of professional life and being. Needless to say that when the first World Usability Day was put together in Sportsbet during the second week of November we (DRUXers — that is members of our group, Design, Research and User Experience) were all deeply excited.

For weeks before the half day event commenced in the afternoon of Nov 12, the DRUX-WUD had a series of meetings in order to identify the best activities that would not only give a sense to the participants of what usability is and how it is important for Sportsbet but also were fun to engage with. We, firstly, distributed an online quiz on usability to the whole company some days before the event in order to raise awareness about the different aspects of ugsabily processes in an engaging and fun way.

On the day we put together a ‘Usability Immersion’ area that included:

the ‘Usability Methods wheel’ (a spinning wheel we created that provided the opportunity for people to know more about specific methods),

the eyetracker (a device for measuring the eye positions and movement),

as well as a sticky dot quiz (for participants to evaluate the usability of the Sportsbet app by putting red or green dots on the relative designs).

We also invited the participants to suggest any ideas for new improvements or general thoughts through our ideas box.

Before and during that event we encouraged everyone to sign up for a real taste of a more naturalistic way of conducting user testing. We organized a series of guerilla usability testing sessions, which is a common technique for grasping initial user insights of new features or products in a rapid manner.

It was great for all of us to see so many of the company’s employees (most of whom from completely different areas and departments) to engage with the activities as well as to show a great interest on the value and applicability of usability within the corresponding areas of professional interest.

All in all, it was a great start to a yearly event that can be used as a platform for sharing thoughts around usability and UX in general.

The take home message from our interaction with all the participants was that regardless of which department we are coming from we all endeavor for simplicity which is one of the anchor stones of the products that we are delivering. I guess in his quote Charles Mingus was not wrong at all…

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