Questions about Usability
Sample Proposal
Sample Issues List
Suggested Links

Starting a usability project:

Step 1: The first step in any usability project is to meet and discuss the current stage of the product and usability needs.  As we discuss what kind of information best fits these needs, we formulate a set of focus questions to determine what kind of data we want to gather.  See the Sample Proposal for examples of focus questions.

Step 2: Then we agree on the type of research we want to do.  Several different types are outlined here, and all can be adjusted to fit a variety of budgets.  Use the following links to jump to the full descriptions below:

Usability or Heuristic review

Usability planning

Paper prototype testing


Iterative or stand-alone usability testing:

Off-site discount usability test

On-site usability test

Off-site laboratory usability test

Survey or interview research

Field research or contextual research

Step 3: After completing the research, I deliver findings within a day or two in the form of an Issues List or top-line summary.  I can also deliver a final report a few days later that summarizes the methods and data of the project and answers the focus questions that we started with.

Descriptions of usability projects:

Usability or Heuristic review.  I review current or proposed designs (build, in prototype, or in written specification) and predict usability issues based on expertise and usability guidelines (heuristics).  End result is a written report containing comments on design and recommendations for changes.

Usability planning.  I work with a team to help them plan their own usability activities over the course of product development.  End result is a written research plan that advises which usability projects are best suited to each stage of the development cycle and outlines how to get them going.

Paper prototype testing.  Testing designs on paper is a highly effective tool for anticipating usability problems later on.  I help the team mock up the product with drawings or screen shots and then walk users through projected tasks.  For example, users point to what they want to click on a web page design, and I place the relevant new page in front of them.  End result is a written report listing usability issues that users encountered in the prototype and recommendations for fixes.

Iterative or one-time usability testing.  Iterative testing involves repeated tests to measure improvement after each design change.  Iterative testing is the most effective way to design for complete usability.  Each of the following three techniques for usability testing can be done iteratively or as stand-alone product assessments:

Off-site discount usability test.  I test a design (build, prototype build, or paper prototype) quickly with users at a site where they may congregate.  For example, recruit passersby at a mall for 15- to 30-minute sessions each, or go to a preschool to test with children.  End result is a written report listing usability issues observed in sessions and recommendations for fixes.  The primary advantage of this kind of testing is getting user data and feedback from a standard usability sample (6 to 8 participants) in a very short period of time.

On-site usability test.  I work with the design team to recruit participants to come to the client's site for one-on-one sessions in standard usability protocols (6 to 8 participants each perform tasks with the UI design for 1 to 2 hours).  Team members observe sessions via a video link in a separate room.  End result is a written report listing usability issues observed in sessions and recommendations for fixes.  The advantages of this kind of testing are team involvement in observing and discussing sessions, and individualized testing without the expense of a formal laboratory environment.

Off-site laboratory usability test.  I arrange laboratory test facilities and recruitment services for participants in order to run a formal laboratory usability test.  Test sessions occur at the off-site facility, with all team members invited to observe.  End result is a written report listing usability issues observed in sessions and recommendations for fixes.  The advantages of this kind of testing are a valid user profile obtained through objective recruiting, and greater formality and therefore generalizability of test sessions.

Survey or interview research.  I work with the design team to establish questions of interest and an appropriate database for participants, then design and distribute a survey, and collect and analyze data.  End result is a written report of the results of the survey.  Survey research can include web-based surveys that can accommodate large numbers of participants with no extra effort in data entry, or smaller samples using one-on-one structured interview techniques.

Field research or contextual research.  I observe a sample of target users in their own home or work environment.  Team members are also included on these site visits in small numbers.  Users perform their usual tasks using the client's or a competitor product and simultaneously answer questions about their behavior.  End result is a written report summarizing user profiles and behavior, along with usability issues and recommendations for revision or new design concepts.  This kind of research is highly effective for understanding real-world processes and constraints on the products of interest, and often illuminates users’ needs for new features or products.




Contact me at libbyh@earthlink.net


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Content © 2001 Hanna Research & Consulting

Last modified: November 21, 2004