Assume that you are in charge of a development project and you have about $10,000 to spend on usability. What is the best way to use the money? What is the right thing to do for the organization? What will be best for customers?
User-centered design professionals pay special emphasis to one type of stakeholder—the users of the system—arguing that user experience needs to be carefully crafted to satisfy user needs. While understanding user needs and goals is certainly necessary, it is often not sufficient for producing a successful design.
Enterprise software usability is difficult to evaluate because the standard product shipped on a CD is almost always customized when it is implemented. How then can we learn about the design issues that actual users encounter with customized software?
“Observe your users” — a maxim most user experience professionals subscribe to. But how do you “observe?” When testing websites, generating hypotheses about user behavior can help inform the observation process, structure data collection and analysis, and organize findings.
In the business world, user experience endeavors are typically seen as a cost—a line item expense to be minimized to the greatest extent possible while still remaining competitive. This has led to a number of essays, articles, and books on proving the value of user experience, including a recent report by the Nielsen Norman Group.
As a specialist in the user, you gain knowledge through observation and direct questioning of individual users. Now, you can add to that insights gained from data pulled during their actions on the site. By looking at this information, you will get a fuller picture of user behavior, not in a lab, but in the true user environment.
Over the coming months and years, RIAs will move from cutting edge to mainstream. That transformation will accelerate with the Flash and user experience communities working together to understand and develop best practices and shared knowledge.
How do you prove your worth to clients in today’s difficult economy? Performed as part of a sales proposal or the discovery phase of a project, a site assessment can uncover opportunities for improvement and help you speak knowledgeably about solutions to your potential client’s problems.
There are several research tools at our disposal for understanding user behavior. But how many times do we get the chance to spend as much time on research as we think is required? Combining techniques is one way to increase efficiency and still collect meaningful information.
Recording what users do is a crucial aspect of usability testing. Fortunately, recording screen activity doesn’t necessarily cost much. Three Windows-based software programs range between $30 and $150 and offer excellent performance.