Yes, the ideal situation when you want to conduct a usability review is to use the services of a usability expert. But… that’s not always within budget or an option that can be put into play in the right timeframe to keep a product’s development on track.
So, let’s take a look at how anyone can conduct a usability review using a simple process instead.
What is a Usability Review?
In essence, it’s taking a system and comparing it to a list of “best practice standards” for usability. They tend to fall into two categories – scenario-based reviews and heuristic reviews. The former is walking through a product based on a scenario or scenarios that users are likely to face. For example, get on the website and buy a camera. The latter, involves carrying out tests against a list of heuristics (those best practice standards).
In practice the two tend to end up blurred into one as they can be most effective when used together rather than separately.
Why Use a Usability Review?
There are some benefits to using a usability review on a product. They are fast to execute and don’t cost a lot of money (you just need someone to design and execute the test). You don’t need to be an expert to carry out a usability review (though the more experience you have – the better the results tend to be). You can broaden the scope a usability review to test a lot of functionality; something you often can’t do with real users because of time constraints.
Notes of Caution for Usability Reviews
You also need to be careful about using usability reviews – they don’t tell you how usable your product actually is, they just offer a theoretical idea of its usability. Only your users can confirm that. It’s also easy to miss something when you define the scope of the tests. Because usability reviews tend to depend on the opinion of one person – the results can be misleading too.
A Usability Review Process That Anyone Can Carry Out
This is not the only way to carry out a usability review; however, it is a simple and straightforward method if you’ve not done a usability review before. Over time, as you become more confident, you might want to explore other methods and ideas too.
Step 1 – Define the Scenarios to Test
A scenario is simply something that you user would do with your product. For example, if you run a retail outlet online – it might be to make a purchase on the store. If you run an information site – it might be to find a specific piece or pieces of information.
You’ll want to define the most common scenarios that your users face and any new or previously untested scenarios too. If you have limited time to do the review in – prioritize scenarios by their level of importance. E.g. It’s more important that the sales process on a retail store works than the FAQ process works (though eventually, it’s important that they both work) because if your customer can’t buy from you – the whole product is pointless.
Try to answer these questions when developing scenarios:
Who is the user? Are they familiar with the system? Come up with a light-weight (rather than in depth) persona that can guide how the user might behave.
What is the user trying to get done? What task(s) will they need to perform?
Why are they using the system? What do they expect to achieve with the system?
Where will they be using the system? What browser/hardware will they access the system with?
The scope of the review will depend on the complexity of the product and what you really need to test. Ideally, you want to keep the number of personas to a minimum and recycle them wherever possible for multiple scenarios (to save duplication of effort).
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Step 2 – Carry Out a Walkthrough of Each of Your Scenarios
This step is pretty simple, now that you have your scenarios – it’s time to try and execute those scenarios and see if you can walk a mile in the shoes of a user.
Now… this is why usability reviews aren’t fool-proof. It’s impossible for you to predict how users will actually behave but you can take a guesstimate by posing these questions for each step of your scenario:
Is it clear what the user should do? That is – is there enough information on screen to make it obvious how the user can conduct the task?
Is it clear how the user should behave? OK, it’s clear how to get started but is it clear how they should go through the whole process?
Is there feedback to let the user know they got things right? Is there a clear end point in the process? Does the user know if they followed the instructions correctly?
You run through the walkthroughs to the point where either you are sure the user will have done what was needed or walked away because they couldn’t do what was needed.
Recording this process is easy. Use screenshots with the questions you asked and write on them.
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Step 3 – Score the Walkthrough
The scoring mechanism you develop is up to you. Many UX teams will base their scores on the classic 10 usability heuristics developed by Nielsen but many others will develop their own tailored approach. Scoring isn’t as vital as fixing the issues but it is a good way to give other people in your business an idea of how the usability review performed.
It will take a little experimentation to work out which aspects work for your business and which don’t. Your first time round will probably lead to an overly complex or overly simple rating – don’t worry about that – you can improve the scoring process until you’re happy with it.
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Conducting a usability review isn’t all that difficult. It’s a technique best employed for early evaluation of designs before you let users loose on them. Don’t forget that the results of a usability review are indicative of issues rather than a guarantee of them. You still need to test with users at some point or another.
GUI design has become the best choice of user interface design. Nevertheless, in spite of the unpredictable popularity of GUI, few application programs have good interface design and live up to graphic user interface design principles. Additionally, it’s extremely difficult to use the expertise and existing documents to explain what an excellent and direct-viewing operation interface is. Here are 8 GUI design principles.
1.Know more about your users.
This one of GUI design principles suggests that Apps should be able to reflect the characteristics of their users’ thoughts and behaviors. Developers ought to know people first to fully know their users for the commonalities between the two. It’s easier to learn through identification than through rote memorization. Ordinary people can remember around 2,000 to 3,000 words only, but identify more than 50,000 words. Consequently it would better to make users remember key buttons rather than provide a list or data value for users to choose from.
2.Be careful about different perspectives of understanding.
Many designers may unknowingly slide into the trap of “perspectives” in terms of icon design or overall design for the software. This one of GUI design principles requires designers to take user’s perspective into account to make users understand the graphic UI design better.
3.Make UI design sharper.
GUI of Apps is usually unclear for end-users. One effective solution is to develop, use and reserve word list to make App sharper. Ambiguity or inconformity of some terms of Apps have bred many users’ discontent. Therefore, This one of GUI design tips asks for a clear UI design.
- Conform your design.
A good GUI design should follow and conform their designs to the experience and designs of some other Apps that have achieved success and been commonly accepted. When compiling commercial App software, this one of GUI design principles requires designers to provide users with designs as many as possible in line with outstanding designs .
- Provide visual feedback.
If you have ever stared at a mouse or hourglass when waiting for program execution completion, then you can realize the feeling of discouragement resulted from a lack of visual feedback. Your users need to know how long they have to wait for the end of program execution. According to this one of GUI design principles, When it takes more than 7 to 10 seconds to complete program execution, users generally hope to be prompted by a message box or progress indicator.
- Provide audio feedback.
Warning tone is usually taken as a kind of ambient noises. It’s the same with that of GUI design. However, audio feedback works when it’s necessary to remind user of impending serious problems. For instance, an audio feedback to give a warning is indispensable when one more operation of the procedure may lead to data loss. this one of GUI design principles thus also suggest that users should be allowed to disable audio feedback in GUI design except the situation when something goes wrong and must be dealt with.
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Most software have graphic user interface. The focuses of graphic user interface design and evaluation are exactness, ease of use and visual effects.
A well-designed interface can exert guide effect and lead users to complete an operation. Meanwhile, interface, similar to a human face, has a direct advantage of attracting users. Rationally-designed interface can bring users joyful feelings and a sense of accomplishment.
As a tester, you should do a test on whether the style of user interface can meet users’ needs and follow some UI design and evaluation principles. For instance, whether an interface is beautiful and visualized and whether the operation is user-friendly and easy to be done.
There being no fixed rule on what an interface should be, it depends on tester’s subjective judgment especially for usability and visual effect evaluation. Therefore, personal viewpoints should be better taken into consideration.
One thing to note is that there are some basic principles in user interface design and UI design and testing should be done.
There are various kinds of currently prevalent UI styles: the style of the browser used by B/S-structured software, the style of single-window and multiwindow, the style of resource manager, etc. No matter what kind of the style it is, great importance should be attached to the following user interface design and evaluation principles.
I. Ease of use
This user interface design and evaluation principle suggests that the names of buttons and menu items on the screen should be easy to be understood. Make sure that the right words are used; avoid confusing and misleading terms. Words and terms should make it easy to make a distinction among the buttons and menu items in the same interface. Ever better, users can understand the functions of the interface and make correct operations relevantly without referring to FAQ.
Here are some details of this principle of user interface design and evaluation:
- Buttons with the same or similar functions should be framed by Frame; shortcuts should be supported by commonly used buttons.
- Elements with the same functions or tasks should be placed on centralized location so as to shorten the distance of icon movement.
- Interface should be divided into several zones based on functions; zones should be framed by Frame and be provided with functional specifications or titles.
- Interface should support the function of keyboard auto-browsing button, that is, auto-switching function of Tab button.
- Significant components and information that should be firstly input on the interface should be located at the front place of Tab order and the full position of the window.
II. visual effects
This user interface design and evaluation principle suggests that the size of interface should be aesthetically pleasing, harmonious and effectively arranged to attract user’s attention within the valid range.
This user interface design and evaluation principle includes more subjective judgments:
- Length-to-width ratio should be mainly equal to golden ratio; disproportionality should be avoided; breadth shouldn’t be larger than width.
- Layout should be reasonable, but neither too dense nor too empty; space should be utilized reasonably.
- Buttons should be similar in size; names shouldn’t be too long lest interface space be excessively occupied.
- Button’s size should be coordinated with that of interface.
- Big buttons should be forbidden in an empty interface.
- There shouldn’t be a large vacancy after finishing setting all buttons.
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For UI/UX Designers: What Does UX Mean in Web Design?
Become a Great UX Designer in 5 Easy Steps