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  • 1. Architecture of Learning Environments E19.2017 Usability Research
  • 2. Why is Usability Important?
    • Technologies are changing very rapidly and usability assurance needs to keep pace.
    • Productivity- poor usability hinders productivity
    • The user becomes frustrated, will go elsewhere
  • 3. Definition: Usability as a Dialogue
    • “ (a) system’s usability is the extent to which it supports the potential for people who work with it to understand it, to learn, and to make changes…
    • The technology itself, even when it is not intended as a communications product, serves as a communication medium between user and user, and between designer and user …
    • this communication is embedded in every kind of artifact.”
    • (Adler and Winograd, 1992, pg. 7)
  • 4. Nielsen’s Definition of Usability
    • Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. It includes 5 main components:
    • Learnability : How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time?
    • Efficiency : Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
    • Memorability : When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
    • Errors : How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
    • Satisfaction : How pleasant is it to use the design?
    Jakob Nielsen, source:
  • 5. Forms of Usability Testing
    • (Nielsen, 1992)
    • 1) Testing a close-to-finished interface to check whether usability goals have been achieved
    • 2) Formative evaluation of a system still being designed to see which aspects of the interface work or not
  • 6. When to conduct Usability Testing?
    • During the DESIGN phase through:
      • low fidelity prototype testing
      • high fidelity prototype testing
      • heuristic evaluation
    • During the Development phase
      • formative evaluation
  • 7. Heuristic Evaluation
    • According to Nielsen (1992), we can conduct simple evaluations with 9 usability heuristics (guidelines):
      • Use simple and natural dialogue
      • Speak the user’s language
      • Minimize user memory load
      • Be consistent
      • Provide feedback
      • Provide clearly marked exits
      • Provide shortcuts
      • Provide good error messages
      • Prevent errors
  • 8. 3 Main Components of Testing
    • Get hold of some representative users ,
    • Ask the users to perform representative tasks with the design.
    • Observe what the users do, where they succeed, and where they have difficulties
    • with the user interface.
    • “ Listening to what people say is misleading:
    • you have to watch what they actually do.”
    • (Image source:
  • 9. Usability Testing Plan:
    • Purpose
      • Why are you conducting the tests?
    • Problem Statement/Test Objectives
      • What usability objectives are you testing?
    • User Profile
      • Who are your users and their defining characteristics?
  • 10. Usability Testing Plan
    • Methods
      • Details how you will run the test
    • Task List
      • List of the tasks to be completed, projected times for completion, required state of system to test tasks
    • Test Environment/Equipment
      • List what you need to conduct the test
  • 11. Setting Usability Objectives
    • Created during user/task analysis
    • Must be measurable
    • Should indicate:
      • Type of user
      • Task to be performed
      • Specific performance criteria
  • 12. Selecting Test Participants
    • Define the user groups you are interested in (can segment by age, gender, etc.)
    • Target 3-5 test participants from each user group
    • Best if users come from the real user population rather than internally
  • 13. Methods and Testing Scenarios
    • The “Think Aloud”
    • Card Sorts:
      • Ask for user input on the information architecture or taxonomies
      • Write topics or categories on cards and ask people to sort them into related concepts or groups
  • 14. Methods and Scenarios
    • Questionnaires (with Likert type scales)
    • Pretests for user’s prior knowledge and skill levels
    • Usability Lab testing : where they clicked, what they clicked, how long did it take?
    • Hallway testing : conduct testing with internal participants
    • Mobile testing : testing participants in their own work contexts
  • 15. New Usability Scenarios
    • Emerging technologies present new challenges to usability testing,
    • Technologies are moving beyond traditional office-based personal computer applications.
  • 16. Emerging Technologies
    • Characteristics:
      • Rapidly changing
      • Technology is increasingly embedded into environment (ubiquitous computing)
      • Adapted to many more out-of-office contexts
      • There is more integration among devices (e.g. wireless keyboards, wireless headset, etc.)
      • More global “market” for products
  • 17. New Usability Testing?
    • More emphasis on context of use in testing
    • Focus on new terms such as “consumer experience” rather than merely “ease of use”
    • More mobile, ad-hoc, observation based?