A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Usability

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Usability is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal. Usability can also refer to the methods of measuring usability and the study of the principles behind an object's perceived efficiency or elegance. The field of usability is often felt to be related to user-centered design, interaction design and experience design.

 

1.
#21878

2D is Better Than 3D

Most abstract information spaces work poorly in 3D because they are non-physical. If anything, they have at least a hundred dimensions, so visualizing an information space in 3D means throwing away 97 dimensions instead of 98: hardly a big enough improvement to justify the added interface complexity.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (1998). Design>Web Design>Usability

2.
#37049

The $300 Million Button

It's hard to imagine a form that could be simpler: two fields, two buttons, and one link. Yet, it turns out this form was preventing customers from purchasing products from a major e-commerce site, to the tune of $300,000,000 a year. What was even worse: the designers of the site had no clue there was even a problem.

Spool, Jared M. User Interface Engineering (2009). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Forms

3.
#28324

AAA Accessibilità Cercasi   (members only)

Fare Accessibilità significa avere delle conoscenze tecniche, avere dimestichezza con Standard e Raccomandazioni del W3C. Ma non solo. Significa conoscere il target dell´Accessibilità, erroneamente ed ingenuamente precluso ai soli disabili. Significa conoscere chi sono le persone disabili, che prima di essere disabili, sono Persone. Sono coloro che vivono sulla propria pelle ogni giorno le conseguenze di scelte strategiche sbagliate di coloro che hanno il potere, con un sì o con un no, di creare o abbattere le barriere tecnologiche che ostacolano il libero accesso alle informazioni ed ai servizi online.

Bertini, Patrizia. Apogeonline (2004). (Italian) Books>Usability>Accessibility>eBooks

4.
#33458

About Us Information on Websites

We found a 9% improvement in the usability of About Us information on websites over the past 5 years. But companies and organizations still can't explain what they do in one paragraph.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2008). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Writing

5.
#20624

"About Us" -- Presenting Information About an Organization on Its Website

Study participants searched websites for background information ranging from company history to management biographies and contact details. Their success rate was 70%, leaving much room for usability improvements in the 'About Us' designs.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2003). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Writing

6.
#10318

Accentuate the Negative: Obtaining Effective Reviews Through Focused Questions   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

How you ask a question strongly determines the type of answer that you will obtain. For effective documentation reviews, whether they are conducted internally or externally as part of usability testing, it's important to use precise questions that will provide concrete information on which to base revisions. This paper proposes an approach to obtaining useful feedback that emphasizes negative, 'what did we do wrong?' questions. This approach focuses limited resources on areas that need improvement rather than areas that already work well and that don't require immediate improvement.

Hart, Geoffrey J.S. Technical Communication Online (1997). Articles>Usability>Methods>Testing

7.
#18597

Access to Current and Next-Generation Information Systems by People with Disabilities

The purpose of this document is to provide information and resources for those interested in learning more about accessibility issues and current and next-generation information systems. The current focus of this document is on the National Information Infrastructure (NII), sometimes known as the 'information superhighway.' This document contains both information presented at a very introductory level and information which is more technical in nature. Wherever possible, all of the technical discussions are broken out and presented separately, so that readers may course through the material at a level which is comfortable to them, and which meets their information needs. This is a living document which will be continually revised and added to as more information is collected and as the efforts in the area of research, development, and public policy continue to evolve. The most recent form of this document can be found on the Internet via our ftp, gopher, or WWW servers. All of these are located at: trace.wisc.edu The document can be viewed on-line or downloaded in one of several forms to facilitate accessibility.

University of Wisconsin. Articles>Editing>Accessibility>Usability

8.
#36282

Accessibility Allies Against A11y

The idea of accessibility is to make websites (or other things) more easily usable by people, most frequently specifically “people who are disabled”. This is emphatically not just about using alt tags (note: always call them tags, it annoys the purists). Accessibility is not just about the blind.

ThePickards (2009). Articles>Accessibility>Diction>Usability

9.
#26821

Accessibility and Usability for All

An article discussing how the needs of all users must be addressed, including the varying level of computer literacy and competence. It is conjectured that building sites which address the specific needs of these audiences will benefit the general public as a whole.

Nevett, Fraser. Mercurytide (2006). Articles>Accessibility>Usability

10.
#19037

Accessibility Arguments Revisited

Frontend has recently completed the delivery of the first version (1.1) of the Irish National Disability Authority (NDA) IT Accessibility Guidelines. In the course of our work for the NDA over the last year we’ve talked to a wide variety groups and individuals who have an interest in accessibility and as a result of their input, our approach has shifted a little. Here’s what we found out.

Poskitt, Henry. Frontend Infocentre (2002). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Usability

11.
#18606

Accessibility Components Resource List

In trying to build accessible products, it is sometimes difficult to find key components. This is particularly true when building prototypes or coordinating small volume productions. This resource listing is provided to assist people in finding sources for key accessibility components such as accessible telephone handsets (for use on kiosks, etc.), voice technology products and other accessible components. It is maintained on an 'as we find it basis.' In other words, when we locate particular components or they are brought to our attention, we wll include them here.

University of Wisconsin. Resources>Usability>Accessibility>Universal Usability

12.
#26626

Accessibility Is Not Enough

A strict focus on accessibility as a scorecard item doesn't help users with disabilities. To help these users accomplish critical tasks, you must adopt a usability perspective.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2005). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Usability

13.
#19263

Accessibility Meets Usability: A Plea for a Paramount and Concurrent User-Centered Design Approach to Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility for All   (PDF)

This paper identifies challenges for a user–centered design process with respect to infusing accessible design practices into electronic and information technology product development. Initially, it emphasizes that when user–centered design is paramount and concurrent with accessible design, electronic and information technology can be accessible for all. Next, it provides an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 508. Last, it provides basic accessible design heuristics that can be integrated into the design process. It concludes with recommendations for a paramount and concurrent user–centered design approach to product development.

Reece, Gloria A. STC Proceedings (2002). Articles>User Centered Design>Accessibility>Usability

14.
#33131

Accessible Forms

This document is concerned with what the user of a Website form "sees" and interacts with. It outlines how you can create forms for the Web that are more accessible and describes the appropriate use of.

Hudson, William. Webusability (2004). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Forms

15.
#27921

Accessing Information through Natural Language Interface   (members only)

The natural language interface (NLI) is a module that allows the user to access the information stored in the underlying database by typing requests expressed in a natural language.

Kovacs, Laszlo and Sieber, Tanja. tekom (2005). Articles>Usability

16.
#18441

Accommodating Mobility Impaired Users on the Web

Worldwide, there are more than 750 million people with disabilities and this number is increasing. It is critical that the Web be usable by anyone, regardless of individual capabilities and disabilities since the World Wide Web is supposed to be a place where everyone has the ability to find information or shop. Website designers should be sure that the web pages can be accessible by everyone no matter who or where. Accessibility, a category of usability, is a software product's ability to be used by people with disabilities, such as motion impairment.

Deng, Yu. Universal Usability (2001). Articles>Usability>Accessibility

17.
#22949

Accountability of Accessibility and Usability

Focus on your users, all of them. Learn from mistakes currently made on the Web. If a user can't fill out a form, they can't buy anything from your site. People turned away by unusable sites will probably try a competitor's site. Don't be the site that turned people away. Make your Web site as usable and accessible as possible. It's the business savvy thing to do. It's the right thing to do. If you don't, someone just might force you legally to do it or threaten to sue.

Pavka, Anitra. Digital Web Magazine (2002). Design>Web Design>Accessibility>Usability

18.
#38336

Accuracy vs. Insights in Quantitative Usability

Better to accept a wider margin of error in usability metrics than to spend the entire budget learning too few things with extreme precision.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2011). Articles>Usability>Testing>Methods

19.
#37402

Achieving and Balancing Consistency in User Interface Design

The Principle of Least Astonishment, in shorthand, encompasses what we, as designers, must achieve to ensure consistency in our designs. Consistency is a fundamental design principle for usable user interfaces. But the thing that astonishes me is that it’s actually necessary to explain this principle. Surprise implies the unexpected. Of course, users want the response to a given action to be what they expect; otherwise, they would have done something else. In user interactions, the unexpected is pretty much the same as the unwanted. Surprise usually implies something bad rather than something positive—unless users already have such dismally low expectations of their software that they might think, Wow! It worked. I’m so astonished.

Zuschlag, Michael. UXmatters (2010). Articles>User Interface>Usability

20.
#29449

The Achilles Heel of Product Design Competitions and the Fair Judging Solution

I have judged a fair number of national and international product design competitions (five in the past three years alone) and each has made the same procedural mistake: products are assembled and categorized, judging criterion are devised, reputable judges are assembled, and yet we judges never see or touch the products in person. Instead, we receive a set of written documents describing each product, its intended function, and its design process. Imagine an art contest conducted by email and you get the gist of what's going on out there.

Buttiglieri, Rich. Usability Professionals Association (2007). Design>Usability>Assessment

21.
#33352

Acting on User Research

User research offers a learning opportunity that can help you build an understanding of user behavior, but you must resolve discrepancies between research findings and your own beliefs.

Nielsen, Jakob. Alertbox (2004). Articles>Usability>Research

22.
#39056

Adapting UI to iOS 7: The Side Menu

One of the most common implementations of menu views has been the “side drawer,” “basement,” or “side menu” made popular in apps such as Facebook and Path. When a user taps the “Hamburger” icon to open a side menu, the main screen slides to the right (or left in some implementations) to reveal another screen below.

UX Magazine (2013). Articles>User Interface>Mobile>Usability

23.
#11790

Add New Tricks to Your Performance

One of the things I noticed about circus performers was that they are always practicing and always learning. Why? Because audiences demand acts that delight them. Therefore, to keep their routines fresh and interesting to themselves as well as to the audience, performers are always learning something new, something more difficult, or something fresh. You, as a technical communicator, need to have the same passion for adding new tricks to your performance. A great place to start is with usability: design, testing, and analysis. Why? If you make sure that your documents are well written, doesn’t that automatically make them usable? Of course not. Well-written documents are simply that—well written. Your prose may be technically accurate, clear, and succinct, but if people can’t find it, or don’t know about it, or if it documents a hard-to-use product, then no one will use it. As Judy Glick-Smith says: 'It’s communication, not literature.'

Wise, Mary. Usability Interface (2000). Articles>Usability

24.
#22306

Adobe's Robert McDaniels Responds (Again) to Nielsen Criticisms of PDF

Many of the 'PDF Usability Crimes' Nielsen cites have nothing to do with Acrobat or PDF but are the result of poor design choices. Most of same arguments about poor navigation, large file sizes, and excessive text blocks can be used to describe poorly designed HTML as well. There are some very valid reasons for using PDF's online as opposed to HTML.

McDaniels, Robert. PlanetPDF (2003). Articles>Usability>Software>Adobe Acrobat

25.
#35082

Adopting Documentation Usability Techniques to Alleviate Cognitive Friction

Usability is the combination of effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which the users accomplish defined goals in a given environment. User-centered documentation matches the users' mental model, thereby helping the users find information they want quickly and easily in their hour of need. The list of documentation usability criteria is fairly subjective at this time, and various opinionated discussion groups have contributed to this. Usable documentation is based on a deep understanding of the users' tasks, and this understanding can only be gained through interviewing representative users. Applying information architecture techniques, the content within documentation should be properly chunked so that the users can assimilate the information properly. Procedural guides should have a well-defined and searchable index that enables users to connect key application terms to their correct context. User-friendly documentation is always succinct, but never at the expense of omitting critical/useful information. It should be developed using a structured process so that it starts with the big picture and gradually adds lower level of details, addressing the needs of every unique group of users. Finally, the documentation must be tested among a representative group of users, and their feedback should be incorporated to make sure that it has met all of the major usability criteria.

Biswas, Debarshi Gupta and Suranjana Dasgupta. STC Usability SIG (2009). Articles>Usability>User Experience>Documentation

 
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