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  • 1. Audience Analysis as “Usability Testing”
    • Key Terms
    • Usability Testing: Functions, Criteria, Methods
    • Theories and Methods
    • New Approaches (Mirel in Dubinsky)
  • 2. New Terms
    • Usability
    • Usability Specialist
    • Usability Testing
    • All come from the computer industry, where designing for ease of use has been a priority since the 1980s, when Apple showed the industry it could be done.
  • 3. New Terms: Usability
    • Usability – “ any system designed for people to use should be easy to learn (and remember), useful, . . . Contain functions people really need in their work, and be easy and pleasant to use.”
    • (J.R. Gould and C. Lewis, “Design for Usability,” 1985; qtd. by Mirel 221, my emphasis).
    • Key features: “ease of use, ease of learning, pleasantness, usefulness . . . ; all combined, they provide users with a positive work experience ” (Mirel 221, my emphasis)
  • 4. New Terms: Usability Specialist
    • People who conduct user research and task analysis for software design, especially user interface design. (Mirel 233)
    • From a Ticketmaster Job Ad:
    • The Web Usability Specialist works closely with the Product Management team to facilitate and moderate usability tests to find ways to increase user frequency of use and retention for ticketmaster.com and its client applications.
    • Degree in Human Factors, Marketing Research or Marketing
  • 5. New Terms: Usability Specialist
    • From a Macromedia Job Ad:
    • The Web Usability Specialist works closely with the Product Management team to facilitate and moderate usability tests to find ways to increase user frequency of use and retention for ticketmaster.com and its client applications .
    • Degree in Human Factors or related field.
  • 6. Job Titles of “Usability Professionals”
    • Usability Specialist
    • Usability Engineer
    • User Experience Designer
    • Information Architect
    • Interface or Interaction Designer
    • Human Factors Specialist
    • From Usability Professionals Association (UPA) Website http://www.upassoc.org/usability_resources/about_usability/about_usability_professionals.html
  • 7. Job Titles of Closely Related Fields
    • Web Designer
    • Technical Writer
    • Business or Requirements Analyst
    • Technical or Software Analyst
    • Market Researcher
    • Instructional Designer
    • Industrial Designer
    • From Usability Professionals Association (UPA) Website http://www.upassoc.org/usability_resources/about_usability/about_usability_professionals.html
  • 8. New Terms: Usability Testing
    • A term from the computer industry describing a stage in the process of developing software applications. The goal is to make them “user-friendly.”
    • Usability Specialist Ginny Redish defines it this way: observing representative users “ . . . in a controlled setting with researchers as observers” ( Redish and Schell 67 )
    • Technical communicators have come to apply it to using the same methods to test the documentation that goes with software (or other products). Any form of instructions can profit from usability testing.
  • 9. Usability Testing: Functions
    • Verify – is the manual accurate?
    • Validate – can people use it as intended?
    • Diagnose – provide a feedback loop
    • Imitates computer software “V&V”:
    • verification: read for technical accuracy
    • validation: watch it in use or simulation
  • 10. Usability Testing: Criteria
    • To be valid, a usability test must meet these two criteria (Redish and Schell 67):
    • “ test subjects must be people who might actually use the product”
    • “ the work in the test must be similar to the work that users would actually do with the product”
  • 11. Usability Testing: Methods
    • User-Edits (subject-oriented)
      • Read aloud and do
      • Good for short instructions or parts of a manual
    • Protocol-Aided Edits (task-oriented)
      • Give user a task and a manual & watch them do it
      • Provides insight into user “heuristics” (how users discover answers)
    • Beta Testing (software testing term)
      • Send to typical user and wait for complaints
      • Not methodical or monitored; can’t tell what hasn’t been tested.
  • 12. Usability Testing: Methods
    • Lab Testing (AIR style)
      • Attempts to answer the shortcoming of the other three methods
      • Claimed to
        • be more informative than user edits
        • gather more data than protocol-aided revision
        • be more methodical than beta testing
  • 13. Theories vs. Methods
    • Methods: Applicable Theories
    • User edits Reading levels ? Mutual knowledge?
    • Protocol analysis Cognitive psychology
    • Beta testing Perhaps computer scientists have some?
    • AIR lab testing Triangulating research
    • Memory testing Cognitive psychology
  • 14. Summary, Redish & Schell
    • Usability testing draws on theory about t ask-oriented documents vs. content-oriented documents
    • Redish and Schell’s methods of usability testing are all text-based . None of their methods would work without a text.
    • Subsequent research shows that a document can be task-oriented and still not address the user’s tasks.
  • 15.
    • Ease of use and usefulness may not be the same thing.
    • Context is key to usefulness—as context varies, what was easy to use may be hard
  • 16. New Approaches (Mirel)
    • Mirel focuses on usability for software for performing complex tasks.
    • She uses a case study about bar code medication software to demonstrate the importance of designing for “work-in-context.” It is easy to use as long as everything goes perfectly. Then it becomes frustrating, making the nurse’s job harder instead of easier.
  • 17. New Approaches (cont.)
    • Mirel proposes a different approach to usability that focuses on usefulness as defined by how well a product works in the context for which it was intended.
    • Her approach requires a conceptual change in the design process from procedural frameworks to structural frameworks
  • 18. New Approaches (cont.)
    • Procedural frameworks - task-oriented; step-by-step; suitable for “linear, rule-driven, or formulaic tasks” (Mirel 234). This approach dominates software development
    • She describes this approach as a “decomposition method” that breaks everything down into isolated tasks, with the idea that the sum of them adds up to a whole.
    • This approach misrepresents what goes on in complex tasks. Complex tasks require human interaction and decision-making, so the software needs to be flexible enough to “lean on” users.
  • 19. New Approaches (cont.)
    • Mirel argues for a new model:
    • Structural frameworks - organize performance based on “pragmatic patterns of work in context . . . describing functional relationships and regularities of behaviors” (229) to assist users in problem-solving. Her analogy is genres.
    • Context is key to her new model, which is spatial, rather than linear.
  • 20. New Approaches (cont.)
    • Mirel’s argument for designing for context resembles Johnson’s “Audience Involved.”
    • For complex tasks, users need to be able to interact with and dynamically influence the software. But software developers don’t like relinquishing control. Their model is procedural (steps always lead to the same end), rather than structural, which may lead to a “multiplicity of interpretation” (323)
  • 21. New Approaches (cont.)
    • Mirel argues that all conventional methods of software development place usability testing after companies make fundamental decisions about market and feasibility, and often after deciding on scope and architecture.
    • What customer input they get is from market researchers, business strategists, and account managers (cf. Johnson’s story of the engineers and marketing people who wrote the documentation for the voicemail system)
  • 22. New Approaches (cont.)
    • All software companies “freeze” the product at some stage.
    • Usability specialists rarely have a say in when to freeze or what features to freeze.
    • The interface freeze often comes “before usefulness is assured or fully designed for” (233). They wind up testing only for “ease of use.”
  • 23. Summary
    • Usability may refer to “ease of use” or “usefulness” or “ease in learning”
    • The term originated with software and has been extended to software documentation
    • Usability specialists use a variety of methods to test software products for one or more of these features
    • “ Ease of use” does not ensure “ usefulness .”
    • Changing to a structural model for software development, emphasizing tasks holistically (work-in-context), rather than as isolated tasks would be more suitable for complex tasks.
  • 24. Works Cited
    • Mirel, Barbara. “Advancing a Vision of Usability.” Reshaping Technical Communication . Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. Rpt. Dubinsky 218-39.
    • Redish, Janice C., and David A. Schell. “Writing and Testing Instructions for Usability.” Technical Writing: Theory and Practice. Ed. Bertie E. Fearing and W. Keats Sparrow. New York: Modern Language Association, 1989. 63-71.
    • Spilka, Rachel. “Orality and Literacy in the Workplace: Process- and Text-Based Strategies for Multiple-Audience Adaptation.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication. 4 (1990): 44-67. Rpt. In Peeples, 71-83.