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90% of All Usability Testing is Useless

Good advice from Adaptive Path's Lane Becker on having the right usability testing mindset. Here are some points that he makes: 1) usability testing should focus more on the context and not on the metrics, 2) usability testing is not QA and 3) usability testing should be a core competence owned by the design team. Good stuff.

Digital Web:Accessibility and usability

Digital Web: Accessibility and usability

Peter-Paul Koch: Does building a perfectly accessible site mean all usability extras should be perfectly accessible, too? I think few people will disagree if I answer "No". To me, saying "Yes" means "If it doesn

Column Two: Five ways to identify intranet usability issues

Column Two: Five ways to identify intranet usability issues

  1. Stakeholder interviews
  2. Walking through scenarios
  3. Review existing data
  4. Usability evaluation
  5. Expert review

Usability.gov: Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines

Usability.gov: Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines

"The primary audiences for the Guidelines are website designers, managers, and others involved in the creation or maintenance of websites. A secondary audience is researchers who investigate Web design issues. This resource will help them determine what research has been conducted and where none exists." A entire book in PDF format (128 pages).

Useit: Usability 101

Useit: Usability 101

Usability has five quality components:

Stephen Downes: Design, Standards and Reusability

Stephen Downes: Design, Standards and Reusability

"In order to use a learning design with a set of objects, the learning design must specify the objects to be used, and if the objects to be used are specified, then the learning design is not reusable."

Usability SIG: Learning Disabilities: Being Different Shouldn’t Mean Being Discriminated Against

Usability SIG: Learning Disabilities: Being Different Shouldn't Mean Being Discriminated Against
"With our multi-faceted expertise as technical communicators, we have a fantastic potential to make educational material accessible and eradicate prejudicial treatment due to "differences." Are we ready to invest the time and energy to do this? Just think if materials were adjusted to the learning methods and needs of students, not vice-versa! Perhaps then all children would have a chance to show their capabilities."
[From the Accessibility and Usability issue]

Usability SIG: Observing Users Who Listen to Web Sites

Usability SIG: Observing Users Who Listen to Web Sites
The Communications Technology Branch at the United States National Cancer Institute has been conducting usability testing with blind and low-vision users to:
- Understand how blind and low-vision users work with web sites.
- See the relationship between accessibility and usability.
- Assess the usability of specific web sites for blind and low-vision users.
In this article we focus on the first of these goals and give you some of the fascinating findings about how vision-impaired users work with web sites.

Gerry McGovern: Usability is good management

Gerry McGovern: Usability is good management
"Some people think usability is a new discipline. It's not. It's as old as management. It comes from the walking and talking school of management. It's about testing the theory with the customer. It's about observing the customer to see what can be improved, what new products can be developed."

Useit: Employee Directory Search: Resolving Conflicting Usability Guidelines

Useit: Employee Directory Search: Resolving Conflicting Usability Guidelines
"Searching an employee directory is not truly a "search" in the human way of thinking. As users see it, search is when you type in a word and find documents that contain that word. In using the employee directory box, you type in a name, not a word. And you find a person, not a document. Because these actions are very different, there is no expectation that the two boxes should behave the same."

Alertbox: Recruiting Test Participants for Usability Studies

Alertbox: Recruiting Test Participants for Usability Studies
"Single-test projects invariably defer usability testing until the complete design is available. This practice still occurs despite twenty years of experience uniformly showing that most projects require multiple rounds of testing and redesign to achieve acceptable user-experience quality, and the equally strong finding that it is a hundred times cheaper to fix usability problems discovered early in the project rather than at its end."

HOT Labs: Usability Testing: Myths, Misconceptions and Misuses

HOT Labs: Usability Testing: Myths, Misconceptions and Misuses
"The idea behind usability testing is to have people perform the tasks for which the product was designed. If they can't do the tasks or if they have difficulty performing the tasks, the UI is not adequate and should be redesigned. Confusion can be avoided if we use usability evaluation for the generic term and reserve usability testing for the specific evaluation method based on user performance."

UsabilityNet: Methods

UsabilityNet: Methods Table
An interactive usability methods table that allows you to filter methods based on limited time/resources, limited skills/expertise, or no direct acess to users.

Business Week: Usability Is Next to Profitability

Business Week: Usability Is Next to Profitability
"Buyers have become much more demanding about usability because they know what's possible to do now with a high-performance PC and a little imagination. The Web has accelerated the process. After all, Web sites such as Amazon.com are really just complicated pieces of sales and tracking software with a simplified yet very powerful 'front end' that an average person can easily use."

Useit: Intranet Usability: The Trillion-Dollar Question

Useit: Intranet Usability: The Trillion-Dollar Question
Intranet teams can only accomplish so much through heroic efforts. Management must give them the budget to buy necessary software, to develop design standards and conduct usability studies, and to write content and implement tools that help employees increase their productivity. Intranet teams must also have the authority to enforce design standards and ensure a unified intranet.

EContent:  The Siren Song of Structure: Heeding the Call of Reusability

EContent: The Siren Song of Structure: Heeding the Call of Reusability
Multichannel distribution is certainly music to ears of any Web publisher. I call this music the "siren song of structure," because all the benefits of reusability depend on being able to structure your content carefully and sustain that structure consistently. If you underestimate the challenges of creating and maintaining structure, you risk getting dashed on the rocks of yet another under-utilized CMS implementation.

Usabililty SIG: Usability checklist for e-learning

Usability SIG: Usability checklist for e-learning
Useful set of guidelines to keep in mind when developing e-learning courses. It covers Site Design, Navigation, Module Design, Content Organization, Sequencing, Graphics and Text.
[Note: The document is a MS-Word document and is password protected, but you can view it in Read-only mode.]

New Architect: The Culture of Usability

New Architect: The Culture of Usability
Now that most of us agree that usability testing is an integral investment in site development, it's time to recognize that the standard approach falls short. It is possible to do less work and get better results while spending less money. By bringing usability testing in-house and breaking tests into more manageable sessions, you can vastly improve your online offering without affecting your profit margin.

New Architect: The Culture of Usability

New Architect: The Culture of Usability
Now that most of us agree that usability testing is an integral investment in site development, it's time to recognize that the standard approach falls short. It is possible to do less work and get better results while spending less money. By bringing usability testing in-house and breaking tests into more manageable sessions, you can vastly improve your online offering without affecting your profit margin.

eLearn Magazine: Do You Really Need Reusability?

eLearn Magazine: Do You Really Need Reusability?
For one thing, it's hard to design reusable learning objects. That means you need more skilled (i.e., higher paid) instructional designers who will probably take more time (and therefore more money) to make your e-learning reusable. So there is an actual dollar cost for reusability. Second, in order to make content reusable, instructional designers have to give up a number of useful techniques that they would otherwise employ to deliver the best learning experience possible.

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