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Why Do User Research And Usability Testing

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  • 1. Why Do User Research and Usability Testing? Copyright Energy Systems Lab, 2008
  • 2. Stumbling Blocks
      • The answer to the question is simple: to remove stumbling blocks from the user’s path through the application.
      • This may not seem that important, but it is. Let’s see why…
  • 3. Reduced Capital
      • One way or another, stumbling blocks represent a failure to achieve maximum capital gains.
        • This is true whether you are a private sector product focused company or a government corporation that is grant funded.
  • 4. Reputation
      • The applications you build are part of your brand.
        • You wouldn’t ignore an ugly font or icon on a website, so why gloss over a usability defect?
        • Building a bad brand discourages people from doing business with you in the future.
          • This can be in the form of a grant disbursement or a person purchasing shrink-wrapped software at Best Buy.
  • 5. Bad Forms Produce Bad Results
      • Let us all learn from the 300 million dollar button example. (Wroblewski, p.16-18)
  • 6. As a Developer, Why Should I Care About Usability?
      • Getting it right early, means moving on faster.
      • Satisfaction of helping people achieve their goals through your interface.
      • Improving your reputation. Looking out for your future.
      • Care for your craft.
  • 7. "Why Can't We Do This All In-House?"
      • "Can't you just take care of all this usability stuff by following some simple rules?" 
        • Yes and No. If developers could make usable apps from  the confines of their cube, they would.
        • Usability is a measure of prevention, if done right, you are never going to see where it paid off (unless you are building a better mousetrap).
        • “ I think saving small fractions of a second by optimal button placement is probably a good illustration of the real but limited impact that traditional psychological theory can have if diligently applied.” (Carroll, p. 65)
  • 8. "Why Can't We Do This All In-House?" (cont'd)
      • "Aren't you smart enough to figure out what the user needs on your own?"
        • “ Personal observation of one’s own system is one of the worst ways to assess usability." (Carroll, p.69)
        • Turn that question around.  If you can't prognosticate that, what makes you think a developer can? 
      • "I know exactly what the end users need, it's ..."
        • Ok, maybe you do maybe you don't.  Let's not guess, lets find out for sure.  That's where field studies and user interviews come in.
  • 9. Factors Affecting Usability
      • Conceptual Model extended to the user (Norman, pp. 12-17)
      • Clarity of text anywhere and everywhere
      • Position and size of navigation elements
      • Organization of information
      • Performance as it relates to responsiveness
      • Naturalness of mapping from a control to what is effected by its use (Norman, pp. 23-27)
  • 10. Where to Start: Conducting User Research
      • You should do some level of user research when the high level design of your application is underway.
        • “ Task analysis provides important clues to what the interface organization and conceptual design should be,” (Weinschenck, p. 26).
        • Yes it costs money to do user research.  It costs even more money to go into litigation because nobody thought about the user first.
  • 11. Who You Write it for Will Change What it Does
      • User Role Modeling is important, and should be done right from the start.
      • Beware the "Too Many Masters" syndrome.
        • If Accounting wants it for one thing, and Marketing wants it for something else, you may never get a converging set of requirements.
  • 12. Where to Start: Usability Testing
      • Start with what is reasonable for your situation. 
        • Hiring a usablity professional can be costly and therefore encourages waiting until the software is "done." (Krug, p. 131)
        • Waiting to consider usability till late in development lengthens the user feedback loop, which can be very costly.
  • 13. Where to Start: Usability Testing (cont'd)
      • Incorporate user feedback into your design A.S.A.P.
        • There are several methodologies for doing this:
          • Paper prototyping
          • Rapid Prototyping
          • Iterative & Incremental development and deployment
  • 14. Where to Start: Usability Testing(cont’d)
      • Krug suggests that usability testing can be a home grown effort. (Krug, p. 137)
        • Some user testing is better than none at all.
          • Do what your wallet can afford.
        • Representative end users are overrated. (Krug, p. 135)
        • 3-4 user testers at each round of user testing is good enough.(Krug, p. 138)
        • Test early and often.
          • How you define “early” and “often” may be influenced by several factors
  • 15. It Depends...
      • One size does not fit all. 
      • You are going to have to figure out how to do usability testing and user research in your environment. 
      • What works for one company may not work for another.
      • You may be able to get useful advice on how to go about doing usability testing from someone in a similar situation working on a similar project that is already doing user testing
      • Time and budget will affect how you do usability testing
        • but remember, it is better to user test once than never at all.
  • 16. References
      • Carroll, J. M. (Ed.). (1991). Designing interaction: Psychology at the human-computer interface. New York: Cambridge University Press.
      • Krug, S. (2006). Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Second Edition. Berkley, CA: New Riders.
      • Norman, D. (1990). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Doubleday.
      • Weinschenk, S., Jamar, P., & Yeo, S.C. (1997). GUI design essentials. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
      • Wroblewski, L. (2008). Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks. Brooklyn, New York: Rosenfeld Media.