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Consequences to Lack of Usability Leadership

Evaluating the mobile game download process of leading U.S. network providers in a recent Portal Evaluation report, Strategy Analytics concludes that Verizon Wireless offers the best game download experience, beating offerings from AT&T/Cingular, Helio and Sprint.

As described in the report entitled "Cingular Trails Mobile Portal Leaders Sprint and Verizon Wireless by 20 Index Points," participants from the Strategy Analytics user panel managed to discover the game download area in the fastest time, purchase a game in the least amount of clicks, and showed the highest levels of satisfaction when using the Verizon Wireless service.

"Participants showed the most dissatisfaction with the AT&T/Cingular service," commented Paul Brown, User Experience Analyst at Strategy Analytics. "On average it took users three times as many clicks to access the games store using the AT&T/Cingular service compared to Verizon Wireless."

David Kerr, Vice President of the Global Wireless Practice added, "While the estimated U.S. revenue from mobile gaming is projected to be over $520 million in 2007, operators are missing out on over $100 million in revenue as a result of inferior usability. Improvements to the purchase process from content discovery and preview to billing are required."

I believe that the art and science of usability, and associated user experience design, needs to be elevated at all broadband service providers and mobile network operators. I have previously consulted on telecom portal redesign projects, and have witnessed the issues first-hand. I agree, it's a common inhibitor of value added service (VAS) revenue growth.

The typical usability problems appear to stem from a lack of marketing ownership of the whole consumer experience life-cycle -- from initial service activation to ongoing customer care. And, product management teams often aren't skilled in usability assessment processes, and I believe that they should be -- as a credible leader, to take charge of this key service attribute.

Ensuring a superior consumer experience -- what I call "simplicity, by design" -- should be an integral part of every service provider's product development and marketing methodology.

Other findings from the report include:

- Cingular received the lowest rating across all four categories: Ease of Task Completion, Process Logic, Time Taken and Ease of Task Duplication.

- Verizon Wireless topped the user satisfaction ratings with a score of 91, out of a possible 100.

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