Measuring usefulness of a product

Cognitive group discusses this topic in the paper “Measuring a product’s usefulness” accepted and to be presented at the ergonomics world congress IEA 2012 in Brasil.


Paper is written in collaboration with Prof. Jean-Marc Robert (École Polytechnique of Montreal) and Tigran Atoyan, MSc. (University of Oxford).


Decision makers should put a major effort in understanding a product’s potential usefulness before

deciding to invest in it. The challenge is: How to define usefulness of a product, how to measure it? The paper discusses those issues, the relation between the commercial success or failure of a product and its usefulness.


The paper reveals that usefulness of product is related to ability of that product to support users to do their fundamental activities saving time and energy. Other criteria in usefulness of a product are safety, quality of outcome, etc.

The main challenge in measuring product’s usefulness is in determining the right set of specific activities that it will be used for and their relative weights in the user’s overall decision-making process in the given context. This requires a deep understanding of the target audience, its behavior, and the context in which the product is used. Next step is to compare the product’s usefulness with one or more alternatives. And this comparison is based on its performance in terms of criteria such as time and energy used, how safe it is and its overall quality.


The paper provides a formula to determine the relative usefulness of a variety of products in different contexts and discusses the formula by real examples. It compares usefulness of products using existing products, namely it compares smart-phones (Blackberry and iPhone) and web-browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer).


While a product’s usefulness alone does not explain commercial success or failure, measuring it allows one to put its relative advantages in perspective.

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