The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Poor Usability Imposes a Time Tax On Your Users

tax-169849-m (1)It doesn’t matter whether your users are visitors to your website or customers for your software.  It doesn’t matter whether they are consumers or business people.  Their time is precious to them.

Time magazine recently published an article that claimed Americans would pay $2,700 for an extra hour a day.  Small business owners report that time is their most valuable asset.  In almost any context, our society seems to feel that there is never enough time.  The American day seems to be “shrinking.”

Now apply that thinking to your website or your new app or your software.  How easy is it for your visitors/customers/users to accomplish what they need to get done?  The more difficult a task is to accomplish, the more time it takes.  Any impediment to efficient completion of a task becomes, in effect, a time tax on your users.  Using the logic that an American consumer would pay $2,700 for an extra hour in their day, your website levies the emotional equivalent of a $45 tax for every minute of time they “waste” on your website.

In case you think that your website (or app or software) is so user-friendly that this time-tax problem doesn’t apply to you, go through the open text comments from your site or product surveys.  Look first for direct feedback on the word “time,” but then look for cues like the “n’t” contraction, which will typically indicate a problem.  When your visitors tell you they “can’t” or your site “doesn’t,” they have typically failed to find or do something.  Time lost may also feel like time wasted.  How long before your visitors refuse to pay that ongoing tax on their time?

So don’t assume that your site or software is a “time-tax-free” experience.  Because the tax is invisible and silent does not mean that it is any less resented.  The greater the usability, the lower the tax.  In this sense, Usability Sciences is a tax detector.  Put us to work for your users.

-Roger Beynon, CSO, Usability Sciences


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