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
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.