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Types of Wake-up Calls

My favorite part about teaching usability courses is that magic moment when course participants “get it.” I can see it in their eyes: the usability paradigm clicks in and suddenly their whole perspective changes. They return from breaks and comment on design issues such as confusing elevator controls and bathroom fixtures, and I know they will never be quite the same. It is the same thing with organizations. There is a point where the organization gets it—the organization wakes up and sees the user-centered perspective as essential, and that organization will never be the same.

In most organizations, the wake-up call cannot be instantaneous because there are too many people involved. But when the wake-up call does happen, it draws the attention of the organization to the important issues. There is realization, excitement, and determination. Resources are allocated and people start working on an entire institutionalization effort, or at least on addressing some of the major usability concerns. So while a wake-up call might cause some discomfort, it's often the first step required to institutionalize usability. The subsections below describe different types of wake-up calls that organizations may experience.


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