Articles

Topic: Research Methods

Building Respect for Usability Expertise

July 6, 2009

Enemies of usability claim that because 'the experts disagree,' they can safely ignore user advocates' expertise and run with whatever design they personally prefer.

Traffic Log Patterns

July 10, 2006

The relative popularity of a site's pages, the number of visitors referred by other sites, and the traffic from search queries continue to follow a Zipf distribution.

Enterprise Usability

November 7, 2005

Usability goes beyond the level of individual users interacting with screens. It's also a question of how easy or cumbersome it is for the entire organization to use a system.

Putting A/B Testing in Its Place

August 15, 2005

Measuring the live impact of design changes on key business metrics is valuable, but often creates a focus on short-term improvements. This near-term view neglects bigger issues that only qualitative studies can find.

Authentic Behavior in User Testing

February 14, 2005

Despite being an artificial situation, user testing generates realistic findings because people engage strongly with the tasks and suspend their disbelief.

Acting on User Research

November 8, 2004

User research offers a learning opportunity that can help you build an understanding of user behavior, but you must resolve discrepancies between research findings and your own beliefs.

Card Sorting: How Many Users to Test

July 19, 2004

Testing ever-more users in card sorting has diminishing returns, but test at least 15 users - 3 times more than you would in traditional usability tests.

Keep Online Surveys Short

February 2, 2004

To ensure high response rates and avoid misleading survey results, keep your surveys short and ensure that your questions are well written and easy to answer.

User Empowerment and the Fun Factor

July 7, 2002

Designs that engage and empower users increase their enjoyment and encourage them to explore websites in-depth. Once we achieve ease of use, we'll need additional usability methods to further strengthen joy of use.

Field Studies Done Right: Fast and Observational

January 20, 2002

Field studies should emphasize the observation of real user behavior. Simple field studies are fast and easy to conduct, and do not require a posse of anthropologists: All members of a design team should go on customer visits.

Usability Metrics

January 21, 2001

Although measuring usability can cost four times as much as conducting qualitative studies (which often generate better insight), metrics are sometimes worth the expense. Among other things, metrics can help managers track design progress and support decisions about when to release a product.

Voodoo Usability

December 12, 1999

Focus groups and surveys study users' opinions - not actual behavior - so they are misleading for the design of interactive systems like websites. Automated usability measures are just as misleading.

Tracking the Growth of a Site

February 22, 1998

Website usage must be tracked to plan server capacity needs and future business models. Examples show use of regression statistics to predict future traffic patterns.

The Use and Misuse of Focus Groups

January 1, 1997

Focus groups can be a powerful tool in system development, but they should not be the only source of information about user behavior. In interactive systems development, the proper role of focus groups is not to assess interaction styles or design usability, but to discover what users want from the system.

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