How usability can make or cost you millions

At one of my last companies, we had a large contract with a cable TV retailer to sell our product over the air.

Things initially seemed to be going swimmingly well, until the buyer mentioned that our returns were “a bit high”. But “a bit high” was unnerving and I was frankly shocked that the number was where it was.

We immediately started to research the problem, and found the issue came almost entirely from usability issues.

Once fixed, our return rates plummeted and everyone was happy. Considering that this customer did millions of dollars of business with us, the impact was not insignificant.

Later, we hired a full-time UX designer and started doing lots of usability panels, and as always happens in these cases, we were embarrassed and mortified to see videos of poor new users bumbling around, trying to do something that seemed completely obvious to us. We started to make dramatic changes to the product, with significant results.

If you’ve never seen a usability study, the following two videos by Melanie Perkins, co-founder and CEO of Canva, highlight the problem. A feature that seems obvious to a developer is painful for users.

This particularly user experience came down to a “simple” action of choosing a color.

Watch the first user:


So…Canva’s solution was utterly simple: just change the default color from grey to red.

And something magical happens:

Pretty dramatic! As Melanie says:

This tiny tweak has saved hundreds of thousands of people from struggling with this step and boosted our user’s self-confidence in the process.

Usability: it’s a Good Thing.

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