Stop Listing “Easy to Use” as a Design Requirement

Digital Product Strategy

Whenever you ask a digital product owner what they wish for their new (or revamped) website, web app, or mobile app the first thing that is often mentioned is, “It needs to be easy to use”. In fact, I’d bet well over 80% of the RFPs I’ve read through in my decade-plus at Paper Leaf have included language like “easy to use” or “intuitive” or “simple” as a requirement for the software project.

Here’s the problem: “easy to use” software is not a functional requirement. While you can argue it can be listed as a non-functional requirement, in my opinion that’s wrong too. In reality, intuitive software is “table stakes” – meaning, the ability to consistently design intuitive applications is what a shop needs in order to even have a seat at your table.

The Rising Tide of User Expectations

Gone are the days of slapping together UI. End users of modern software – that is, you and I and everyone with a modern smartphone or internet access – have increasingly high standards when it comes to UX and UI. Our baseline expectations are set by incredibly researched and polished applications iterated on by enormous, highly paid software engineers and design experts: AirBnb, Google, Microsoft, Slack, Facebook and so forth.

We interact with these platforms daily, and that in turn shifts our perspectives of what intuitive, well-designed software should be. So it makes sense that you want to ensure the new software you’re building with your digital product firm is easy to use. But instead of listing “easy to use” as a requirement in the RFP, and hoping that will help solve the problem of guaranteeing intuitive UX and UI for your new website or app, here’s what you should be doing instead.

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Identify Agencies with Good UX & UI Skills

Instead of listing “easy to use” as a requirement for your project, research shops that demonstrate good UX / UI in their body of work, and have a conversation with them. If you must, send the RFP to them. Here’s some issues and tips for RFPs, as well as finding shops.

Once you’ve identified some firms who look to value and execute on UX/UI, you’ll want to assess their expertise in the particular area. Assessing an agency’s UX/UI chops is something that runs throughout the whole procurement process, and should include:

  1. Reviewing their portfolio of work
  2. Reviewing their description of their process online or in proposals
  3. Asking specific questions about designing good user experiences
  4. Inquiring about the value they place on, and implementation of, user testing and revision/feedback cycles.
  5. Discussing intuitiveness and UX/UI with past project references

Valuing Good UX is Not Enough

Placing value on a good, intuitive user experience is a great starting point, but it isn’t the end. A bullet point in a requirements list won’t get you across the “easy to use interface” finish line. Instead, go a few steps further and really spend the time to understand how your prospective software development firm will actually make a platform that is easy to use for all of: you, your business, and your end users.

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