Posts on Usability and User Experience
- From Usability Engineering to Experience Design – June 24, 2006
- User Research: Don’t neglect the goldmine in your own backyward – May 7, 2006
- CHI 2006 Themes: Is technology good or bad for social interaction? – April 30, 2006
- Scott Cook, founder of Intuit, talks about innovation at CHI 2006 – April 27, 2006
- The Best of Web 2.0: Remember the Milk – April 12, 2006
- The social life of humans and machines: How to design for the social interaction – April 8, 2006
- When shopping online becomes a personal experience – March 31, 2006
- Love your test participants more than yourself – October 7, 2005
- Perceived cost-benefit and (online) behavior – September 25, 2005
- Even Jared Spool is blogging – August 20, 2005
- Please let me buy sheet music! – June 25, 2005
- Show me your feeds and I’ll tell you who you are – May 20, 2005
What is usability engineering?
Usability is set of tools and methodologies aimed at improving the usability of a system. A usable system:
- is easy to learn
- is efficient to use
- is easy to remember
- minimizes the number of errors users make and
- maximizes user satisfaction.
Usability is about how human beings perceive, think and act, and about how systems work, and how we can ensure that they (humans and systems) will work well together. One can apply usability methods to anything people use: from a kitchen sink to a television set, from a revolving door to a computer system or a web page.
A narrow view of usability emphasizes the evaluative aspect of this discipline, and focuses on methods that can assist in assessing the usability of a system (such as heuristic evaluations, cognitive walkthroughs, usability tests, etc.). According to this view, the job of a usability engineer is to measure the usability of a system and to make recommendations for improvement.
But how does one design a usable system in the first place? Usable systems are designed by applying a User-Centered Design (UCD) process. The starting point of any UCD process is talking to and observing real users in their environment. Information from this user research, together with the business goals and strategy, should drive requirements and inform design. There are different views on how the UCD process should work, each with their strengths and weaknesses, but most people agree: applying a user-centered design process when developing a system can save a lot of money and makes the users of that system much happier.
As part of the UCD process, the job of the usability engineer is to collect information about users (who they are, what they think and expect, and what they do), to help translate this information into design requirements, and to evaluate the resulting design by observing users using the system to complete typical tasks. Throughout the design process, the usability engineer acts as a user advocate within the design team, striving for a balanced integration of user goals and business goals.