Usability engineering, User testing & User-Centered Design

Usability is an attribute of quality and a general term that encompasses all things that have to do with ease-of-use of a products interface and controls. User-centered design is a full lifecycle methodology employed to ensure products meet the needs and expectations of its targeted users. Products are optimized to the users experience by being designed from start-to-finish keeping the user fully in mind. Users should be able to utilize the controls, feedback and display to effect the users desired result. Usability engineering is the employment of systematic methodologies to measure and improve ease-of-use. User testing informs this by supplying empirical measurement data which allows:

• decreasing time and steps to accomplish tasks
• reducing the number of user errors
• reducing user learning time
• increasing user understanding and comprehension
• improving the systems user satisfaction

The end objective of usability engineering is to increase the users acceptance of the product thereby increasing the products acceptance in the market.

Usability standards

ISO 9126-1 defines usability as the capability of software to be understood, learned, used and attractive to the user, within its context of use. ISO 9241-11 defines usability as covering ‘effectiveness’ (degree of task completion), ‘efficiency’ (time & effort to complete tasks) and ‘satisfaction’ (positive attitudes toward the product and freedom from discomfort). 'Learnabilty' (effort required to learn) and 'memorabilty' (degree of recall over time) are further aspects of 'efficiency' and 'effectiveness'.

Our methodology and reporting meets relevant international standards, such as:

• ISO/IEC 25062:2006 "Common Industry Format (CIF) for usability test reports"
• ISO/IEC 9126-4:2001 "Software Engineering - Product quality - Part 4: Quality in use metrics"
• ISO 13407:1999 "Human centered design processes for interactive systems"
• ISO 20282-3 "Ease of operation of everyday products - Part 3: Test method for consumer products"
• ISO 20282-4 "Ease of operation of everyday products - Part 4: Test method for the installation of consumer products"

Usability Services

2 pound specializes in the applied and experimental domains of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Engineering Psychology. As a Usability Specialist we use specialized knowledge and methodologies dealing with analytics, statistical metrics and User testing. Usability analysis is not solely about performance benchmarking- it is an integral part of design in a user-centered system. Usability results are actionable in that measurements are related against available benchmarks and include details and summaries of where, why and what should be done.

Lifecycle User Testing

User needs analysis and User focus groups are a precursor to qualitative and quantitative usability testing- they catalog subjective user opinion upon which a user-centric design should be informed. User needs analysis occurs prior to and during the early design stage. Results define design, user experience and marketing requirements.

Formative and Diagnostic usability testing is performed repeatedly during a products iterative design and developmental stage. Its purpose is to provide quick feedback that reiteratively shapes the product design and direction. Testing early and often helps to uncover structural problems that may become to expensive to fix later on. The test method includes expert heuristic testing and user stream-of-thought recording.

Summative and Measurement usability measures, compares and validates the usability of a product once it's in a final state. Testing is performed in a usability lab.

Services available include the following domains:

• user-centered design • information design • needs assessment
• GUI design • plain language • paper prototyping • usability guidelines
• heuristic evaluation • user testing • qualitative and quantitative analytics
• human factors • ergonomics • human-computer interaction
• focus group testing • testing methodology • task, process and flow testing


©2001-2006 2 pound