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Recruiting Test Participants for Usability Studies

Another Jakob Nielsen Alertbox is out. This time he covers the key metrics behind recruiting test participants for usability studies (i.e. what does it take to get a warm body in to take user tests, who is doing it, what are the known problems, etc.).


  • Recruiting Test Participants for Usability Studies

Nick Finck - January 20, 2003 - via InfoDesign

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Gorilla Usability

"Not everyone has time to conduct a formal usability study, or the money to invest in a full blown usability initiative, and frankly, lots of times that might not be the best option anyway. Sometimes a designer or developer needs that one-on-one, maker-to-user interface. Gorilla Usability will show you some ways to get to know your users in a real world, out-from-behind-the-glass kind of way." (D. Keith Robinson,


  • The article Gorilla Usability - Do You Know Your Users?

Henrik Olsen - January 05, 2003

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Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web

In the introduction, Christina Wodtke claims that her book on IA isn't for people doing IA for a living "most of it will probably be old hat." It might be true, that her book won't make a revolution for the IA field, but it is very enlightening to read about Wodtke's practical use of the techniques and principles of IA. And there's no armchair theory here. Everything is backed up by cases, examples, and practical advice on how to make everything work in the real world.

The book concentrates on traditional IA practices, such as:
- User research
- Organising content
- Card sorting
- Personas, scenarios and task analysis
- Site and flow diagramming
- Wireframing and storyboarding

At the end of the book, you'll also find some she-devil tricks on how to persuade you boss and co-workers to do things your way. Highly revealing - my girlfriend is never going to fool me again.


  • The book at
  • The book at

Henrik Olsen - November 14, 2002

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See also: Books (32)  Prototyping and wireframing (32)  Card sorting (8)  Site and flow diagramming (4)  Requirement Analysis (12)  Personas (13)  The design process (14) 



Sample usability report

At the Danish usability consultancy DialogDesign, managed and owned by Rolf Molich, you can download an example of how to put together a usability report. The sample report is based on a usability test of the E-commerce website


  • Download a sample usability report

Henrik Olsen - October 23, 2002

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See also: Tools (51) 



Adventures in Low Fidelity: Designing Search for Egreetings

Cris Farnum's story of a redesign of Egreetings proves the importance of testing early prototypes, by showing how even experienced interaction designers can be wrong and how we have to accept that usability tests can fail concepts, which we believe to be superior.

The article is also an interesting case on testing paper prototypes - or "tabletops", as Farnum calls it. I especially like their use of laminated printouts of screens, which the users can write on with a thin whiteboard marker.


  • The article Adventures in Low Fidelity: Designing Search for Egreetings

Henrik Olsen - August 01, 2002

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See also: Cases and Examples (12)  Prototyping and wireframing (32) 



Survival of the fittest through iterative design

Comparing iterative design with Darwin's concept of natural selection, John S. Rhodes from explains why iterative design and testing are important.

Natural selection happens through the production of many offsprings, each with their unique differences. The ones that are strong and fit in a way that make them succeed in their environment, will survive. That's why many quick and dirty prototypes (offsprings) and continuous testing (selection in a natural environment) are important to a successful development workflow.


  • Evolution, Usability, and Web Design

Henrik Olsen - July 30, 2002

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See also: Tips and guidelines (65)  The design process (14)  Prototyping and wireframing (32) 



Camtasia a screen recording application

Camtasia from TechSmith is a powerful alternative to video-recording usability test sessions. Camtasia can capture all the users' actions on the screen and, at the same time, record the spoken comments of the user and the usability facilitator. The result can be saved to a standard AVI movie file and edited with the Camtasia Producer.


  • Read more about Camtasia at

Henrik Olsen - June 05, 2002

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Guerrilla HCI

Discount usability engineering is one of Jakob Nielsen's hobbyhorses and indeed his most valuable contributions to web and software design. In his contribution to the book Cost-Justifying Usability Nielsen states that software developers rarely use the recommended usability engineering methods, because they are seen as too costly, too time consuming, and all in all intimidating in their complexity.

In the paper Nielsen shows how to conduct discount usability and give some examples of how to estimate usability ROI.


  • The paper Guerrilla HCI: Using Discount Usability Engineering to Penetrate the Intimidation Barrier
  • The book Cost-Justifying Usability at

Henrik Olsen - May 23, 2002

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (19) 



Usability Toolkit

InfoDesign has a section with a lot of free usability toolkit materials including descriptions of usability techniques and downloadable tools such as guidelines, check lists, examples and software.


  • The toolkit at

Henrik Olsen - April 09, 2002

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See also: Tools (51)  Expert reviews (6)  Card sorting (8)  Requirement Analysis (12)  Personas (13)  Prototyping and wireframing (32) 


30 ROI derived from iterative design

In this article CTO of tells how they learned through experience that a top-down approach to Web development is doomed to fail.

Going through an iterative process with prototyping and usability testing, a makeover of resulted in an increase of the conversion rates (the percentage of visitors who make a purchase) by 75 percent.


  • The article How to make sure the customer comes first

Henrik Olsen - March 26, 2002

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See also: Cases and Examples (12)  Prototyping and wireframing (32) 

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