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Topic: Research Methods

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.

Discount Usability for the Web

January 1, 1997

Discount usability engineering is our only hope. We must evangelize methods simple enough that departments can do their own usability work, fast enough that people will take the time, and cheap enough that it's still worth doing. The methods that can accomplish this are simplified user testing with one or two users per design and heuristic evaluation.

Seductive User Interfaces

January 1, 1996

Because computers are no longer used exclusively for utilitarian tasks, we should use systematic methods to design products that are not just efficient but also attractive to users.

Characteristics of Usability Problems Found by Heuristic Evaluation

January 1, 1995

Heuristic evaluation is a good method of identifying both major and minor problems with an interface, but the lists of usability problems found by heuristic evaluation will tend to be dominated by minor problems, which is one reason severity ratings form a useful supplement to the method.

Severity Ratings for Usability Problems

January 1, 1995

Rating usability problems according to their severity facilitates the allocation of resources to fix the most serious problems. Severity ratings are a combination of frequency, impact, and persistence.

Summary of Usability Inspection Methods

January 1, 1995

Usability inspection is the generic name for a set of methods that are all based on having evaluators inspect a user interface. Typically, usability inspection is aimed at finding usability problems in the design, though some methods also address issues like the severity of the usability problems and the overall usability of an entire system.

Usability Laboratories: A 1994 Survey

February 1, 1994

A summary of statistics for the thirteen usability laboratories in 1994, an introduction to the main uses of usability laboratories in usability engineering, and survey of some of the issues related to practical use of user testing and CAUSE tools for computer-aided usability engineering. Nielsen, J. (1994). Usability laboratories. Behaviour & Information Technology 13, 1&2, 3-8.

Goal Composition: Extending Task Analysis to Predict Things People May Want to Do

January 1, 1994

This essay describes a technique for extending a task analysis based on the principle of goal composition. Basically, goal composition starts by considering each primary goal that the user may have when using the system. A list of possible additional features is then generated by combining each of these goals with a set of general meta-goals that extend the primary goals.

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