Usability Week 2009 – Day 3

Day 3 was the final day of the Usability In Practice 3 Day Camp. Today the presenters covered a wrap up of how to report your findings by reviewing our homework. Reviewing the bad Findings Report was just as informative as seeing the good report. They also covered paper prototyping, field studies, how to finance usability studies, the cost benefit analysis of your work, and successful usability programs.

Paper prototyping is a low-fidelity, cheap and easy way to try lots of different ideas for new designs without spending a lot of time building them. It is also great for setting expectations that this is not a polished product, so the critique stays much more focused. Paper prototypes are great for reviewing navigation, work flow, layout, content, terminology, labels, and naming conventions. Testing will run very similar, except your users will use a pen instead of a mouse and keyboard, and you will have an additional person in the room playing the part of the computer.

Field Studies area great way to get lots of information about your customers. These studies show how their environment affects how they use your product. Artifacts, or the things around your users, give you clues to their habits, tools, and distractions. Be sure to tell your subjects not to clean up before you arrive! And if you are going to view someone like a call center employee, don’t let their manager give you a demonstration instead. They will definitely use the application differently, if at all. Field studies will provide lots more information, so be prepared to record all the data in different ways.

Jakob Nielsen presented some great numbers on usability testing. If the time of an employee is subtracted, the only cost of usability testing is the cost of incentives. Usability budgets for big projects from major corporations average around 10% of the project’s budget. What you should expect to see is an increase in conversion rate, a decrease in bounce rate, an increase in community participation, and an increase in clickthrough rates.

Kara wrapped up the session with a discussion of usability programs. The focus wason building user-centereddesign and testing into your projectsfrom the beginning. This means that usability needs to fit within the existing project structure withinan organization. This can happen in centralized, decentralized, or matrix organizations. Having acentralized repository for all usability documentation will instill a cultureof knowledge management and continuous improvement. Start small, make management your ally, and you will be great!

This was a really great session. I walked away with a lotof information on how to conduct usability tests, and how to indtroduce this continuous improvement methodology into our organization. It is nice to move on to a new topic, however. I think our lecturers did a great job, but were getting tired of seeing the same faces day in and day out. A couple of us even noticed that they were cutting Q&A sessions short to avoid some of the participants who could not seem to stay on track. Unfortunately, it did limit other people from asking pertinent and intelligent questions. Looking back, there wasa brief discussion on usability guidelines. I was hoping we would have spent more time on this. This left me looking forward to the sessions over rest of the week.

Hopefully, some of my friends from Usability Week 2009 are reading my blog now. Any comments yet, usabilitists?

4 thoughts on “Usability Week 2009 – Day 3

  1. Patrick Levesque

    Hey, Brian.You told me about a software you discovered and which I would use for paper-prototyping since it generates a low-fidelity look to an existing application. Which software was that already?Thanks.

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