Usability – Part II

4 min read
Design - Igniting Your Startup

Studying usability.

As many have said – there are various ways for studying usability. That’s correct… if they’ve said it, then it must be true. When it comes to usability, I’m recommending one approach, and one alone – let real users test your website, ask them for feedback, listen, analyze, conclude, find solutions, implement… and repeat the entire process!

Oh, in case you’ve missed the first part… take a look.

Improving usability

If you’re feeling lost, here are some milestones to be achieved:

  • Have an old design, a functional website already? Start with that one. Make a list with good features – that must be kept, and bad features – that must be converted into good ones. I don’t think neutral features should be put on the list – a website has only good or bad aspects, there’s no inbetween.
  • Don’t have an old design? Learn from competitors. Make the list mentioned above, just like you would crafted based on your old website.
  • Build a wireframe. If you don’t know what this means, take a look at this article: A puppeteer’s playground. By practicing wireframing you CAN achieve UX nirvana (Wink!)
  • Use prototypes. Heh, I got that covered too, here ya go: The crash test dummy of a website. I’ll add only this – clarity… Yeah baby!
  • Gradually advance. Baby steps, bro! Carefully taken baby steps… Or how we like to call it – Agile Methodology. And if you’re really interested about how you can work fast and efficient than you should learn more about Scrum and Kanban.

Heuristic evaluation

My guess is that not many people know about this… Are you noticing the phonetic resemblance? Heuristic – holistic… I’m not implying anything, I’ve just noticed it…

Oh, what the hell – let’s see the definitions:

  • holistic – characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole
  • heuristic – relating to a usually speculative formulation serving as a guide in the investigation or solution of a problem

The main goal of heuristic evaluations is to identify any problems associated with the design of user interfaces. If you’re feeling up to it, divert from this story and go down the rabbit holeholw – here are Jakob Nielsen’s 10 general principles for interaction design.

I’ll jump ahead and tell you about Susan Weinschenk and Dean Barker – they researched the usability principles and the evaluation methods from many sources and came up with a comprehensive guide:

  • User Control: The interface will allow the user to perceive that they are in control and will allow appropriate control.
  • Human Limitations: The interface will not overload the user’s cognitive, visual, auditory, tactile, or motor limits.
  • Modal Integrity: The interface will fit individual tasks within whatever modality is being used: auditory, visual, or motor/kinesthetic.
  • Accommodation: The interface will fit the way each user group works and thinks.
  • Linguistic Clarity: The interface will communicate as efficiently as possible.
  • Aesthetic Integrity: The interface will have an attractive and appropriate design.
  • Simplicity: The interface will present elements simply.
  • Predictability: The interface will behave in a manner such that users can accurately predict what will happen next.
  • Interpretation: The interface will make reasonable guesses about what the user is trying to do.
  • Accuracy: The interface will be free from errors.
  • Technical Clarity: The interface will have the highest possible fidelity.
  • Flexibility: The interface will allow the user to adjust the design for custom use.
  • Fulfillment: The interface will provide a satisfying user experience.
  • Cultural Propriety: The interface will match the user’s social customs and expectations.
  • Suitable Tempo: The interface will operate at a tempo suitable to the user.
  • Consistency: The interface will be consistent.
  • User Support: The interface will provide additional assistance as needed or requested.
  • Precision: The interface will allow the users to perform a task exactly.
  • Forgiveness: The interface will make actions recoverable.
  • Responsiveness: The interface will inform users about the results of their actions and the interface’s status.

Do we have everything we need?

I would say DEFINITELY NOT! Instead the above guidelines could serve you well when it comes to orientating yourself in the usability realm. Build tests, add your own points of interest, disassemble your website and assemble it back again, get help from real users and from experts also!

Just remember: we need to start building a better Internet, one that can be used by anyone, one that can provide a top-notch user experience.

Interesting read?

About Ciprian Irimies

Ciprian is an UX Ninja, but what really makes him stand out of a crowd is the desire to venture into the unknown, to boldly face new challenges and the lack of hair on his head.