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Conduct usability tests regularly and constantly

According to Janice Fracer, usability testing is most effective when it's a low-stress routine activity, rather than a special event that requires a lot of attention. Successful organizations conduct usability tests on a regular, fixed schedule, integrate results quickly into the product, and spend less money.

To develop a effective culture of usability you should:
- Test regularly and constantly (once a month or more)
- Train a couple of staff members to conduct the tests
- Test with five people at a time
- Perform the tests in-house
- Keep reports crisp and to the point
- Make changes immediately
- Leave recruiting to others


  • The article The Culture of Usability

Henrik Olsen - July 15, 2004

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See also: Usability testing (30)  Tips and guidelines (65) 



Calculating confidence intervals of usability test

Imagine a usability test where five out of five participants completed all tasks successfully. What are the chances that 50 or 1000 will have a 100% completion rate? By calculation confidence intervals, you will be able to tell that the chances lies somewhere between 95% and as low as 48%.

In his article, Jeff Sauro shows us how calculate confidence intervals of usability tests.


  • The article Restoring Confidence in Usability Results

Henrik Olsen - July 08, 2004

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See also: Usability testing (30)  Tips and guidelines (65) 



Five users in a test is not enough

The discussion about how many users is enough for a usability test has been going on for years. Research by Jakob Nielsen and Tom Landauer showing that tests with five users will reveal an average of 85% usability problems has been seen as a proof that five is enough.

According to Laura Faulker, Nielsen and Laudauer's prediction is right. Five users will reveal 85% usability problems - on average. In a study, she found that problems found with five users range from nearly 100% down to only 55%. Thus, relying on a single set of five users, we run the risk that nearly half the problems could be missed.

Dr. Eric Schaffer concludes that "…for a routine usability test run 12 people for each segment. For an important one where the stakes are high run 30. If resources are really tight, you can drop to five-six per segment, but this is bad."


Henrik Olsen - July 01, 2004

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See also: Usability testing (30) 



Prototyping ends the war between clients and developers

In his online book, Client vs. Developers Wars, Eric Holter explains how time commonly wasted in miscommunication during web projects can be poured into actually improving sites by incorporating prototyping into the design process. He tells the woeful tale of conflicts and negative experience, which everybody involved in web development know all too well, and shows how the power of interaction design can change the dynamics of the web design process.

The book is free for download. A must read for interaction designers.


  • The online book Client vs. Developer Wars

Henrik Olsen - June 19, 2004

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See also: Online books (5)  Books (32)  Prototyping and wireframing (32) 



Institutionalization of Usability: A Step-by-Step Guide

This book by Eric Schaffer (Founder & CEO of Human Factors International) answers the question: "How do I make usability routine in my business?" ... and provides the case for corporate commitment.

Usability must be institutionalized as a sustained, routine, and necessary part of the business process.

Executives, managers, and practitioners need a mature usability engineering capability with infrastructure, standards, training, and proper staffing.


Pieter-Jan Pruuost - June 10, 2004

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See also: Books (32)  Implementing user-centred design (7) 



Winning stakeholder support in user-centred design

User-centred design professionals pay special attention to one type of stakeholders – the users. But in real world projects we are often up against more powerful stakeholders, such as CEOs, product managers, and IT professionals, with different and often conflicting requirements.

In this article Johnathan Boutelle gives advice on how to use stakeholder analysis to explore such problem spaces and synthesize disparate worldviews.


  • The article Understanding Organizational Stakeholders for Design Success

Henrik Olsen - June 07, 2004

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See also: Implementing user-centred design (7) 



Personas a la Microsoft

In the article Personas: Practice and Theory, John Pruitt and Jonathan Grundin share their experience gained by using personas in two Microsoft projects. They describe and illustrate their use of personas and outline a psychological theory that explains why personas are more engaging than other methods that tries to explore users' needs.

According to the authors, personas is a powerful complement to other usability methods, which can help a team focus attention on its target audience and their work context. It can aid in design and development decisions, and make assumptions about the target audience and decision-making criteria more explicit.


Henrik Olsen - June 02, 2004

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See also: Personas (13) 



Design pays off big time

Evidence for the link between shareholder return and investment in design has been scarce and anecdotal. An analysis of the British stock market has shown that companies that invest effectively in design, have outperformed the rest of the stock marked by 200%.


  • The article The Impact of Design on Stock Market Performance

Henrik Olsen - May 04, 2004

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (19) 



Card sorting: the definitive guide

Card sorting is a user-centred method for finding patterns in how people categorize information. It can be used to generate structures for information and suggestions for navigation and wording. Here is the "definitive guide" by Donna Maurer and Todd Warfel.


  • The article Card sorting: a definitive guide

Henrik Olsen - April 28, 2004

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See also: Card sorting (8) 



Usability basics

This article from the magazine IEEE Software is a nice introduction to usability, which covers core usability principles and common design techniques.


Henrik Olsen - April 21, 2004

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See also: Primers (9)  The design process (14) 

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