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How to measure designs' impact on productivity

Provoked by a flawed study by Apple on productivity gains of big monitors, Jakob Nielsen has written an article on how to estimate designs' impact on productivity - and how not to do it.

According to Jakob, this is how to measure productivity:
- Involve a broad spectrum of representative users (not just experts).
- Have the users perform realistic tasks (not just low-level operations like cut and paste)
- Don't tell users how to do the tasks - observe their real behaviour

In the article, Jakob gives an example of how to calculate a design's productivity and ROI.


  • The article Productivity and Screen Size Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 23, 2006

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See also: Cost-justification and ROI (27) 



UserVue - a remote usability testing tool

TechSmith, the creators of the screen recording products Camtasia and Morae, has announced their new product UserVue. The product is a web-based service that enables usability researchers to conduct remote usability tests.

Key features:
- Connect remotely to users' own computers
- Observe as they navigate desktop applications and websites
- Communicate through phone or the build-in chat
- Invite observes to participate
- Use the recordings with Morae to do more in-depth analysis


  • TechSmith Debuts UserVue for Remote, Web-based User Experience Research Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 27, 2006

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See also: Tools (106) 



The book Communicating Design

Dan Brown has written a book about the art of communicating design. Here's an excerpt of the book description:

"...Dan Brown shows you how to make the documentation you're required to provide into the most efficient communications tool possible. He begins with an introductory section about deliverables and their place in the overall process, and then delves into to the different types of deliverables. From usability reports to project plans, content maps, flow charts, wireframes, site maps, and more, each chapter includes a contents checklist, presentation strategy, maintenance strategy, a description of the development process and the deliverable's impact on the project, and more."

At the time of writing this post, there is no sample chapter. But at Digital Web Magazine you'll find an excerpt from the chapter on competitive analyses.


  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The companion website Open link in new window
  • An excerpt from the chapter on competitive analyses Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 18, 2006

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See also: Books (47)  Site and flow diagramming (6)  User research (23)  Personas (19)  Prototyping and wireframing (119) 



Review of the book Paper Prototyping

Pabini Gabriel-Petit has published a lengthy review of Carolyn Snyders book Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design.

Gabriel-Petit concludes:

"This is a valuable book on an important topic by an expert in usability. It demonstrates that paper prototyping is an effective technique that is useful in many contexts and provides a complete reference on how to use paper prototypes in usability studies."


Henrik Olsen - June 08, 2006 - via Putting People First

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See also: Books (47)  Prototyping and wireframing (119) 



The book Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces

Being a strong advocate for prototyping, I'm a bit embarrassed that I haven't read Carolyn Snyder's book on paper prototyping until now. And I regret it. Her book has a lot to offer. If you are more into computer-based prototyping, you can still learn a lot from the renowned practitioner.

Carolyn assumes that if you want to build a prototype, it's because you want to test it with users. This has a strong influence on her workflow: Find test participants, create tasks, design the paper prototype, test it, refine it and test it again until you are confident that the design will work.

Something that fascinates me is that the book offers a ready-made step-by-step process for development teams to follow. Just add paper. The workflow seems to be a perfect companion for agile developments methods such as SCRUM.

On the negative side: Clients are almost absent in her book. And that's a pity, because prototypes are great for communicating with clients.


  • Companion web-site Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 14, 2006

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See also: Books (47)  Prototyping and wireframing (119) 



How to run a usability test

Joshua Kaufman has written a short tutorial on how to conduct usability tests. He describes the entire process from screening and recruiting participants, writing test scripts and questionnaires, moderating the test and analyzing results.


  • Practical Usability Testing Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 07, 2006

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See also: Primers (14) 



Predefined tasks in usability tests give flawed results

If usability tests are not guided by what real users want to do, they can give misleading results. Instead of using predefined tasks, Jared Spool suggests that we let the users design their own tasks:

"In interview-based tasks, the participant's interest are discovered, not assigned. Unlike scavenger-hunt tasks, the test's facilitator and participant negotiate the tasks during the tests, instead of proceeding down a list of predefined tasks."

According to Jared Spool, it starts with recruiting. When conducting interview-based tasks it's important to identify candidates that have a passion for the subject matter we're evaluating.

The method is very similar to Mark Hurst's Listening labs.


Henrik Olsen - April 09, 2006

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Stockholm syndrome in usability tests

The term Stockholm Syndrome describes the situation where a hostage becomes sympathetic to his captors.

When Jensen Harris had to conduct his first usability test at Microsoft, he expected that the participants would let out their rage at Microsoft.

But it turns out that people tend to be less critical than they probably should be. The participants consider themselves guests in the usability lab, don't want to insult the hosts, and are embarrassed when they can't complete a task.

"Whatever the cause, this tendency to not criticize the software is a major risk to the results of standard usability testing."

For this reason, Microsoft supplements standard testing by initiatives in which they watch the software more in the real world.


  • Usability Stockholm Syndrome Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 25, 2006

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Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen

DevSource has published a nice 8-minute online video interview featuring Dr. Jakob Nielsen.

Nielsen addresses a wide range of topics, such as proper attitude for programmers, the importance of prototyping in design, and the reasons why PDF, Flash, and local search engines can hurt more than they help.


  • Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2006 - via WebWord

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See also: Interviews (30)  Search (27)  Prototyping and wireframing (119)  Audio and video (48) 



Avoid making wrong conclusions from user analysis

According to Jared Spool, many teams rush the process from user observations to design recommendations. They are so anxious to fix things that they end up making the wrong conclusions and fixing the wrong things.

To make solid recommendations we should state all the alternative inferences we can for the observations we make, collect enough data to prove or disprove a given inference, compare multiple types of data sources, and construct quick prototypes to test our recommendations.


  • The Road to Recommendation Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 10, 2006

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