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Testing how well a site communicates its value

In this episode of the UIE Usability Tools podcast, Jared Spool is interviewed about UIE's Inherent Value Tests. It's a test designed to reveal why new users struggle to see the purpose and value of some product or service when a large body of loyal users is complete devotees.

The test is a modified usability test broken into two pieces. First, loyal customers are asked to give you a tour of the site and tell you what they find valuable. Second, new users are given tasks to see if they come up with the same values. By comparing the two tests, we can see what it is that the new users don't get and why.


  • Usability Tools Podcast: Inherent Value Tests Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 19, 2007

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Interviews (30) 



The 5-Second Test

In the fourth episode of the UIE Usability Tools, Jared Spool and Christine Perfetti talks about their 5-Second Test Method. By showing users a single content page for 5 seconds, you can tests whether a page clearly communicates its purpose.

In the podcast they discuss:
- Why 5-Second Tests should be used primarily to test a site's content pages
- Why 5-Second Tests aren't effective on most home pages
- How to conduct the test with users
- What some of the common mistakes design teams make when conducting a 5-Second Test
- How to recruit users
- How to combine 5-Second Test with other types of tasks


  • Usability Tools Podcast: 5-Second Usability Tests Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 10, 2007

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Interviews (30) 



How to make useful and usable usability recommendations

In order to evaluate the quality of recommendations in usability reports, the CUE-4 study analysed reports from 17 usability teams who independently evaluated the usability of a hotel's website.

The study showed that only 17% of the recommendations were both useful and communicated in a comprehensible way.

In the light of their findings, the authors give the following recommendations:

- Communicate each recommendation clearly at the conceptual level
- Ensure that the recommendation improves the overall usability of the application
- Be aware of the business or technical constraints
- Show respect for the product team's constraints
- Solve the whole problem, not just a special case
- Make recommendations specific and clear
- Avoid vagueness by including specific examples in your recommendations


  • Making Usability Recommendations Useful and Usable Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 27, 2007

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Don't rely on interaction designers

According to Jakob Nielsen, having a good interaction designer doesn't eliminate the need for a systematic usability process. It's true that you're better off hiring a good designer over a bad one. But it's wrong to rely solely on the genius of a designer for several reasons:

- It's hard to get hold of a top 100 interaction designer
- Even superb designers can have bad ideas
- Usability tests provide empirical data on which ideas work and which don't
- User research provides insight into what customers need
- Even a very good design can be improved though iterative design and testing


  • The Myth of the Genius Designer Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 29, 2007

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See also: User research (23)  The design process (24) 



Interview with Jared Spool

InfoDesign has published an interview with Jared Spool. As always, Jared has interesting and provoking views to proclaim:

- Customers don't care about usability and design. Instead, they care about things like increased revenue, reducing expenses, bringing in more customers, and getting more business out of customers.

- The techniques usability professionals use are deeply flawed. We ignore the evidence that there has been no discernable relationship between investment in user-centred design practices and the regular production of usable products. The ones who design the best products don't follow the standard processes that we promote.

- Jared doesn't believe in design guidelines. Instead, his philosophy is to use an iterative approach. "Take a design


  • Jared Spool: The InfoDesign interview Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 12, 2007

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (27) 



Watch users navigate websites with ClickTale

ClickTale is an online service that allows you to watch movies of visitors interacting with your website.

The tool records visitors' mouse movements, clicks, keystrokes and scrolling actions. From the recordings, it generates movies of individual visitor's use of the site.

The tool can be used to gain insight into how visitors interact with websites, to find flaws and enhance navigation and overall usability. As such, it can serve as a good complement to existing statistics services and usability tests.

ClickTale is currently in closed beta, but you can register for an invitation.


  • ClickTale Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 08, 2007

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See also: Tools (106)  Web traffic analysis (12) 



There is no reason to study people from different cities

According to Jakob Nielsen, there's no reason to expend resources travelling to multiple cities and conducting the same usability study. As long as we're testing within a single country, we'll simply observe the same behaviours and learn nothing new.


  • Location is Irrelevant for Usability Studies Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 30, 2007

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Interview with Rolf Molich: Usability test are not suitable for finding usability problems

The UPA Voice has an interview with Rolf Molich, a Danish usability expert, who is best known for his comparative studies of usability teams evaluating the same products (the CUE-studies).

The most important finding of his studies is that different teams report very different results. For example, in a study involving nine professional usability teams testing Hotmail, only 25% of the usability problems reported where the same.

So where does this leave usability testing?

"Its most important role is to make people understand the need for the prevention of usability problems." "But the method is much too expensive to eradicate all usability problems or even just all serious usability problems."

Instead we should prevent usability problems in the first place. Rolf recommends that development teams follow basic usability rules, such as the heuristics he and Jakob Nielsen have developed.


  • The interview with Rolf Molich Open link in new window
  • More about the CUE-studies Open link in new window
  • Rolf and Jakob's usability heuristics Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 06, 2007 - via Column Two

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See also: Expert reviews (11)  Cost-justification and ROI (27) 



Is user-centred design working?

Donna Maurer has published a presentation and recordings of her talk "User centred design: Is it working?"

Here are some interesting (and quite provoking) points from her presentation:

- Lot's of clients are not satisfied with what they get from usability specialists. The work they do is shallow and the clients are left with the hard stuff that they meant to hire out.

- We have to stop selling usability. It doesn't have a value proposition. Usability is a quality aspect. Not a deliverable.

- A lot of the successful websites don't do traditional user research and usability testing. Their model is more about putting something out, see what happens, and modify it if needed.

- We have to stop designing by testing and focus less on user-centred and more on design

- Jakob Nielsen's stuff should be removed from the galaxy. All his rules lure people into a feeling that you can just get these rules and get it right.


  • Donna Maurer's talk User centred design: is it working Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 02, 2006 - via Usability In The News

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See also: Talks and presentations (18)  Audio and video (48)  User research (23) 



How Netflix test features online in fast iterations

Joshua Porter has paid a visit to Netflix and found that a one of the reasons for their success is fast iterations. Every two weeks they make significant changes to their site to improve their service. With each update they try out many new features knowing that only a few of them will work and survive to the next iteration.

According Joshua, Netflix's fast iterations and their "try and see" attitude has a number of benefits:
- They can fail fast and invest less time in the things that don't work
- They can experiment with ideas that might not have a lot of support, but could be potential winners
- They can quickly learn about what works and what doesn't instead of resorting to opinionated arguments
- Making small changes instead of major redesigns makes it easier to measure the effect of the changes
- The constant effort to improve is appreciated by users and provides continuing interest


  • The Freedom of Fast Iterations: How Netflix Designs a Winning Web Site Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 15, 2006

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See also: Web traffic analysis (12) 


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