Week 10 Usability testing
Usability is the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specified users achieve specified goals in particular environments. ISO 9241-11 (1998).
Usability testing is a significant component of the digital asset management process because digital assets are always mediated in some way and it is important to ensure that mediating software works effectively as a tool for accomplishing tasks in the real world.
This week we will look at how it simple it can be to integrate usability testing into the management process.
Jakob Nielsen is regarded as a leading authority on web usability. Engineering-oriented and emphatically not a graphic designer, he is noted for his harsh criticisms of popular websites, contending that many concentrate too heavily on design features which (like Edward Tufte) he views as unnecessary and gimmicky. He regards animation, Flash and graphics as windo dressing at the expense of usability, particularly for disabled visitors. Nielsen has written extensively on the subject of web design. [http://www.useit.com/papers/]
One of Nielson’s useful concepts is the practice of heuristic evaluation. Heuristic evaluation provides a methodology for quick, cheap, and easy evaluation of a user interface design. The goal of heuristic evaluation is to find the usability problems in the design so that they can be addressed as part of an iterative design process. Heuristic evaluation involves having a small checklist of evaluators that can be used to examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the ‘heuristics’). Nielson has identified 10 such heuristics [http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html]:
- Visibility of system status Users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
- Match between system and the real world Words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
- User control and freedom Clearly marked ‘emergency exit’ to leave an unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support for undo and redo.
- Consistency and standards Follow platform conventions without confusion
- Error prevention Confirmation option before users commit to an action.
- Recognition rather than recall Objects, actions, and options clearly visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.
- Flexibility and efficiency of use Accelerators that allow users to tailor frequent actions. Nielsen, recommends a combination of heuristic evaluation and usability testing as each method finds usability problems overlooked by the other.
- Aesthetic and minimalist design No information which is irrelevant or rarely needed.
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
- Help and documentation Help and documentation should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.
This method is quantitative and straight-forward to apply. The notion of a small number of users is backed up by a number of writers in the field. Nielsen’s experience shows that 15 users will uncover all usability problems. His graph below shows that it is sufficient to run frequent small tests with 5 users.
Exercise 7: Applying Heuristics
In order to apply heuristics you first need to identify a list of tasks that are aligned to the tasks that you might expect a user to be able to perform.
In this exercise our aim is to find a video in You Tube, save it and share it with others. Our tasks are as follows:
- Go to http://www.youtube.com
- Sign up to youtube
- Find the 20 second video about an fisherman who is fishing in a hole in the ice and gets fished
- Add a comment to this video
- Create a playlist and save this video to your playlist
- Send the video to someone in the class
- Embed this video in your blog with autoplay option
To assist in this analysis, I have prepared a simple Heuristic analysis tool [Excel 49 KB]
Your assignment this week is to investigate the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS). Publish a list to your blog containing:
1. Mandatory (must be used) metadata elements
2. Definitions of the mandatory elements
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- 2nd October 2006