Usability Partners - from its origins through to the present day. A brief look back at how and why the company was formed...
The Usability Partners story started back in the late 1980s with the formation of a company called Nomos. Like Usability Partners, Nomos too was an independent consultancy, though its services developed into two business areas - 'usability' and 'ergonomics' (the later focused on hardware ergonomics, workplace design and research projects). The consultants in the company traded under the name 'Nomos' between 1988 and 2001.
Usability Partners was born out of the 'usability' consultancy segment of Nomos, and started business in the autumn of 2001. It was founded by Richard Whitehand (formerly the business area manager for 'usability' at Nomos) and Kaisa Solman (formerly a senior usability specialist at Nomos), and other experienced usability consultants from Nomos also joined.
Usability has in the past been strongly tied with 'test and evaluation' of products and systems. In forming Usability Partners, one of the important goals was to be able to offer usability services throughout the development process, rather than focusing only on testing and evaluation.
Usability activities can be integrated into the entire development cycle through our user-centred design process which enables interface design ideas to be created based on a good understanding of user requirements. Interface design work is strongly task related, focused on meeting the needs of intended users and supporting them in their work. Much of the process is based on the International standard ISO 9241-210 (a standard dealing with human-centred design for interactive systems).
The advent of the Internet has seen a significant increase in awareness for usability. This has resulted in an increase in demand for usability services, and usability has become one of the key issues when designing a site. As web sites are often used by the general public, usability is often decisive in their success. An interactive web site, such as an Internet bank or an e-commerce site, must have good usability. If users can't use it, then it simply doesn't work and the development investment will be lost.
Today, Usability Partners is one of the leading usability consultancies in Europe with a wide range of services to support the design and evaluation of products and systems for usability.