In this progression, respected usability specialists will moderate tables on subjects of interest to colleagues who have been working in the usability field for some time. These topics will focus on usability test design, data analysis and presentation, and marketing of data. Attendees should plan to contribute their own experiences. This progression addresses the frequently expressed request by Usability PIC members for more sessions on advanced topics in usability.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a little background on my position for the progression on usability issues. I’ll present what measures I typically collect, and the differences between performance and preference data. Having this as a starting place may help us to have a useful progression discussion.
There are problems with non-user-centered/system-centered design. We must know, understand, and work with actual users so that the people who use the product can do so quickly and easily to accomplish their own tasks.
As documentation is more and more built directly into the interface, and as technical communicators move into interface design and usability, it is important to have a theoretical framework within which to make decisions about what kind of information will be conveyed at any moment. We can build on basic principles of cognitive psychology to help us make these decisions. We start from a question: Why should users be aware of the difference between interface and documentation when all they want is to get something done?
Technical communication journals and conferences over the past decade have consistently covered the topic of quality, but much of this coverage has focused on defining quality in technical communication and describing models of quality for our field. Few have dared to declare a finite set of definitive metrics that could be used across our profession. This paper takes the bold (and yes, foolhardy) step of declaring a set of metrics that could be used universally to measure quality in technical documentation of commercial products. The author is fully aware that this will stir up controversy and dissent, but considers this her contribution to stimulating discussion of the area of specific quality metrics.
The need for user-centered design in this era of rapid technological change is reviewed, and key ingredients of a user-centered design process are described: (1) involvement of users, structured by rigorous user input and feedback methodologies, (2) multidisciplinary teamwork, from developing the initial concepts and approach to evaluating and refining the product after its introduction in the marketplace, and (3) focus on competitiveness, on state-of-theart user interfaces and technology. Data supporting the economic value of user-centered design processes is also reviewed.
This paper represents an international study of IBM customers in the U. S., England, and Germany to see what effect the layout of a technical document has on usability for an audience of Americans and Europeans. The results indicate that while Americans and Europeans want most of the same usability features, they do not agree on all features. Communicating effectively with readers from different countries requires that writers work closely with international readers who represent the readers of their document; interview people who represent their audience; work with a document designer before starting the first draft; and test the draft document on representative users.
People have a limited amount of cognitive resources. Coping with the increasing amount of information presented via a software interface strains a user’s cognitive resources. If a person has to use documentation, whether on-line or paper, additional cognitive resources are consumed, often overloading the user. Using several windows or multi-media elements can compound the problem. Unfortunately, as Wickens (1992) states, humans are unable to manage excessive cognitive strain and they respond by getting frustrated, committing errors, shedding tasks, or reverting to known methods.
How well do web site usability questionnaires apply to the assessment of websites? Can a web site questionnaire work well as an adjunct to a usability test, with a relatively small number of users? This is a handy reference I use from time to time when putting together new usability questionnaires. It contains good reminders of best practices.
Usability testing has proven itself in improving product usability, but actually planning, doing testing, and interpreting results are not always straightforward. Interpretation of the results of usability testing, changes to improves usability, and general inferences to be drawn from specific tests are extremely difficult to make with accuracy. After working through the practicalities and politics of usability testing itself you must then draw conclusions and support them People who have done a lot of testing will find these problems familiar.
The World Wide Web presents a new medium for conducting user surveys. Using this new medium requires that survey designers pay attention not only to the time honored rules for survey construction and administration, but to new rules stemming from the new web-based technology. This paper will present suggestions and ideas for conducting web-based surveys that are based on actual survey experiences.
Usability testing can be planned and executed at various levels of complexity to enhance your Web site throughout stages of development. Include usability testing in the front-end planning and set Web site usability goals. Test early prototypes and then test again to quantify improvements. Assemble a team to plan the testing even if it is just two people. If you follow a planning and testing checklist, you should be rewarded with valuable data to analyze and upgrade your Web site. The process and outcome can enhance your company¶s reputation or improve your credibility as an information designer or developer.
This paper discusses methods for identifying, collecting, and analyzing field data for product design. We present three examples of field studies (one focused on the use of a specific product and two focused on more general user processes) to illustrate how the type of study can affect field methods. In the product-oriented study, observers built an understanding of the work environment by looking at how the users interacted with the product and how the product affected their work, identified patterns of activity, and offered explanations for these activities. In the processoriented studies, observers built an understanding of the work process and made recommendations about how to support it.
The success of an organization that publishes product information depends on customer satisfaction. IBM Product Announcement Support representatives share their experiences in achieving very high levels of customer satisfaction. * How we conducted our surveys and feedback sessions: – Actual approaches – Sample surveys and feedback * How we used this feedback to: – Change the content and format of our deliverable dramatically – Offer our customers additional ways to access product information As writers in IBM Product Announcement Support, our mission is to produce high-quality, effective offering information worldwide. Simply put, we publish IBM product announcements on the full range of IBM hardware, software, and services.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 cites 43 million Americans as having disabilities. Despite the progress the ADA represents in improving equality of opportunity for those with disabilities, much remains to be done—as evidenced by the fact that only 27.8% of working-age people with work disabilities have jobs, compared to 76.8% of those without disabilities. The statistics are even bleaker for minorities. The STC Special Needs Committee was formed in May 1999 to help members with special needs achieve their potential by making available to them information about products, services, and literature that can assist them in their career activities. Three of STC's six guiding ethical principles have high relevance to special needs: legality, professionalism, and—above all—fairness.
The following 21-slide PowerPoint presentation provides An Exercise[/Exercises] in Evaluating Word Density in Slides. Questions guide students through numerous examples of wordy or sprawling text. Discussion prompts help students consider why and how word choice and streamlining can assist in creating successful PowerPoint presentations. Through the lesson, students will develop their own standards and “rules of thumb” for readability, comprehensibility, and clarity.
An Introduction to Usability Testing and Tips for Effective Usability Testing in India. Created and presented by Abhay Rautela at Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India at Bar Camp Delhi 6
A transition from being a last minute resource to participating in product design and contributing to overall quality is occurring for many technical communicators. This move is not always easy; there are often many hurdles. With increased awareness of resources such as usability experts, multi-disciplinary teams, and customers, technical communicators can smooth the way and gradually get in at the ground floor.
Prototyping has long been a part of the sofiware development process, but is still an underutilized aspect of documentation design, particularly for online design. Developing a detailed approach to prototyping lets writers design and confirm document usability early in the development cycle. Implementing detailed prototyping in an iterative design cycle ultimately leads to the best possible document for the audience.
Effective PowerPoint design can be an invaluable tool for delivering your team’s message. When teams know their design options and adhere to a few simple guidelines, they can capitalize on the possibilities for communicating complex ideas in a clear, accessible, and memorable format.
You’ve just created a new Web-based business application, or perhaps you’ve redesigned an existing one. You need to introduce users to the site and help them become familiar and comfortable with the new organization and navigational techniques. They need the information quickly and concisely. What do you do? You give ‘em a guided Web tour….
Usability is more and more critical to online success, but most developers have no formal training in it and most companies have no formal program for it.