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Check out our articles and tools relating to usability and user research.
To be an effective representative of both the user and the designer, and to help steer decision-making, usability practitioners must find a way to influence retailers of consumer products. That means building a new partnership with marketing.
It wonít have escaped your notice that despite many companies investing in user experience, everyday consumer products still have the ability to frustrate the living daylights out of people. I argue this is because marketing teams, influenced by big retailers, unwittingly block the design teamís view of the end user.
Without a clear understanding of a research problem one cannot expect customer or user research to deliver useful findings. Here are five things you can do to help better define a research problem and sharpen your research question.
Reading user instructions continues to rank high on people’s lists of ‘activities-to-be-avoided-at-all-possible-costs’. We’ve worked with a number of clients to improve their user support materials and we frequently encounter five common mistakes made by development teams. This work has given us some insight into how best to avoid these problems occurring in the first place.
“Lean UX” is the new black. We can summarize the philosophy behind it by saying: If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then a prototype is worth a 1000 pictures (with apologies to Ben Shneiderman). But given that we are increasingly working in environments where we need to deliver more with less, how can we speed up the process of prototyping?
The parallels between good research and good detective work are striking. In this article I take a close look at what user experience researchers can learn from the investigative methods used by detectives. And, in the spirit of all the best detective stories, we draw an important conclusion: if you want to become a better researcher you should learn to think like a detective.
We're increasingly asked by organizations for advice on building a user experience competency. Our advice is to start at the top and get the right person for that first critical leadership role. User experience leaders demonstrate 3 core competencies: they understand research; they follow user experience methods and standards; and they are great communicators.
When properly carried out, usability reviews are a very efficient way of finding the usability bloopers in an interface. But there are four common mistakes made by novice reviewers: failing to take the user’s perspective; using only a single reviewer, rather than collating the results from a team; using a generic set of usability principles rather than technology-specific guidelines; and lacking the experience to judge which problems are important.
In spite of a proliferation of books, articles and blogs explaining how to measure usability, few companies seem to put their usability metrics to good use. In this article we show how you can link the numbers from usability tests to the numbers that steer business decisions — and in the process, influence your company's business.
A recently published international standard requires manufacturers of medical devices to follow a user centered design process. To comply, manufacturers of medical devices will need to change the way they design, develop, test and manufacture their systems.
Until usability gets embedded in the processes of your company, you'll probably find you need to justify the investment. Fortunately, usability initiatives deliver a major return on investment: it's not unusual for usability projects to return benefits of 5-10 times their cost in the first year alone.
Being frugal during economic hard times is good business practice. So how can you squeeze your usability budget and still deliver great insights? As well as saving you money, these 10 tips will also help you explode the myth that usability must, of necessity, be expensive and time-consuming.
Are you a CIO, purchasing officer, or IT manager, about to invest in productivity software for your company? If you are, here's a question you should ask your supplier before you sign on the dotted line: "Just how usable is this product?" Astonishingly, most companies won't be able to answer, and those that try will answer the question only vaguely. But now help is at hand. It's called CIF. And it's about to change the game.
Important roads in London are known as 'red routes' and Transport for London do everything in their power to make sure passenger journeys on these routes are completed as smoothly and quickly as possible. Define the red routes for your web site and you'll be able to identify and eliminate any usability obstacles on the key user journeys.
ISO have released a new standard for measuring the usability of every day products, like ticket machines, mobile phones and digital cameras. This standard, ISO 20282, includes test methods for quantifying the usability of consumer products to ensure they meet a pre-defined quality level. This development is exciting because the standard's focus on usability measurement reflects a sea change in the evolving practice of usability.
Focus groups have come under critical scrutiny in recent times and their reliability as a means of understanding customers is frequently questioned. One problem is that, in spite of what conventional wisdom tells us, it is not the voice of the consumer that matters. What matters is the mind of the consumer. The mistake is in believing that what the mind thinks, the voice speaks. It is time to start exploring methods that can probe beyond the obvious and deliver stronger predictive value. In this article we take a closer look at focus groups and suggest when they should and should not be used.
People often throw around the terms 'objective' and 'subjective' when talking about the results of a research study. These terms are frequently equated with the statistical terms 'quantitative' and 'qualitative'. The analogy is false, and this misunderstanding can have consequences for the interpretations and conclusions of usability tests.
It is easy think of all numeric user research data as being equivalent. For the most part numbers seem to be, well Ö numbers. In reality, however, we process bits of information in different ways using different sorting and measuring rules. Although we often do not stop to think about it in this way, recording and classifying of data is always done according to a scheme.
Some useful tools
Many people think questionnaire and survey design is common sense. If that's true then common sense can't be that common because many surveys are very poorly designed. For example, surveys often ask irrelevant questions or biased questions or just too many questions. These problems make the resulting data impossible to analyse. This article reviews best practice in survey design.
User manuals have a bad reputation. In a recent USA Today poll that asked readers "Which technological things have the ability to confuse you?" user manuals came out top! Increasingly companies are rethinking the way they approach user manuals. Here are some tips for improving the usability of user manuals.
Checkpoints for Reviewing Usability Test Reports
As project managers, designers, engineers and researchers you no doubt often find yourself reading, reviewing and advising on research reports that have been commissioned or written by others. The ability to critically review such reports, and to help stakeholders weigh up the merits or shortcomings of research data and conclusions, is an extremely valuable skill. Our list of checkpoints will help you ensure you cover the key issues.
Download the Checklist (PDF: 76k)
Is your design process customer-centered?
What does it mean to have a customer-centered design process? How will your design process impact the success of your products? Discover what customer-centered design really means and find out how your approach measures up by taking this quick and thought-provoking test.
Take the test (Downloads as an Excel file: 45k)