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.
#34759

25-Point Website Usability Checklist  (link broken)

Four major components are covered in this checklist: accessibility, identity, navigation and content. The list is a printable PDF and contains a rating system and space for comments.

User Effect (2009). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Workflow

2.
#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

3.
#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

4.
#36528

The A-Z of Usability  (link broken)

Rather than create yet another definition of usability, we decided to take a different approach and work through the alphabet, picking one word for each letter to capture the flavour of the field. So we proudly present the A-Z of usability — or usability in 26 words.

Travis, David. UserFocus (2007). Articles>Usability>Glossary

5.
#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

6.
#28431

About Personas and Scenarios  (link broken)

Personas are an extremely powerful design tool, which help you to visualise an end-product that you can be confident will suit your users' needs by helping them achieve their goals, and help you test your success.

Hunt, Ben. Web Design From Scratch (2005). Design>Usability>User Centered Design>Personas

7.
#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

8.
#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

9.
#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

10.
#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

11.
#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

12.
#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

13.
#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

14.
#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

15.
#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

16.
#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

17.
#29732

Accessibility Meets Usability: Designing for Multimedia Using Digital Storytelling  (link broken)   (PDF)

Initially, this article provides an overview of digital storytelling that describes its uses, technology, a methodology for creating a digital story, tips for creating a digital story, assessment strategies for digital stories, and links to current examples of digital stories. Next, this article recounts the third author's first experience with digital story-telling, in the context of helping children with hearing loss adopt a more positive frame of reference toward their disability. It describes the storyboarding process, explains how writing is still a primary concern, and gives some valuable advice concerning the pros and cons of dabbling in high- technology. Last it discusses accessibility and usability requirements for digital stories.

Reece, Gloria A. and Judy A. Vinegar. STC Proceedings (2004). Articles>Accessibility>Multimedia>Usability

18.
#23594

Accessibility Redefined  (link broken)   (PDF)

Accessibility has come a long way. Not only most public places but even many private areas now claim to be 'accessible'. However, this term usually implies that a person in a wheelchair is able to get to the inside of a venue. This is not enough. If I am using a wheelchair, I would like to be completely autonomous and move around freely. I don’t want to have to go along a long dark corridor to use a service lift in order to get to another floor. Although I always appreciate it, I don’t want to have to count on the generosity of passersby to help me open a door or push my wheelchair up a slope. My only wish is to blend in with other people, and enjoy life as much as anyone else.

Vais, Fabien. STC Proceedings (2003). Design>Accessibility>User Centered Design>Universal Usability

19.
#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

20.
#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

21.
#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

22.
#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

23.
#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

24.
#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

25.
#11812

Achieving Usability Beyond ISO 9001  (link broken)

In the January issue, David Dick described how ISO standards 9241-11 and 13407 could be used to create standards and strategies for usability in the product life cycle. Another ISO standard that is an integral part of the product life cycle is called ISO 9001. ISO 9001:1994, 'Model for Quality Assurance in Design, Development, Production, Installation and Serving', specifies (quality system) requirements for achieving customer satisfaction by preventing non-conformity at all stages from design through servicing.

Dick, David J. Usability Interface (1998). Articles>Usability>Standards>ISO 9001

 
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