Posts Tagged ‘Usability’

What is Usability

The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use
Benefits to business
  • Product quality improvement
  • More value delivered à Priced higher
  • Increased Profitability
Other sources report :
“There are about 43 million Web sites, and no one knows which ones are usable. The best sites we’ve found are usable only 42 percent of the time, and none that we have studied are usable a majority of the time ….”
Forrester Research :
  • Losing approximately 50% of the potential sales from a site as people can’t find what they need
  • Losing repeat visits from 40% of the users who do not return to a site when their first visit resulted in a negative experience
Jacob Nielsen :
“Studies of user behavior on the Web find a low tolerance for difficult designs or slow sites. People don’t want to wait. And they don’t want to learn how to use a home page. There’s no such thing as a training class or a manual for a Web site. People have to be able to grasp the functioning of the site immediately after scanning the home page — for a few seconds at most.”
1. Compatibility (with the user) – Computer speaking my language
2. Learn ability – I can do that.
3. User friendliness – Easily
4. Effectiveness A – Accomplish user goals.
5. Effectiveness B – Business goals fulfilled.
6. Efficiency – faster.
7. User Satisfaction – Alright ! it was smooth !
8. User Delight – Wow I did not expect this.
9. Flexibility – good ! You could do it this way also, (Ctrl C Ctrl V)
10. Excellent User Experience.

An Evidence based methodology that involves end users throughout the development process to product information systems that are measurably easier to use, learn and remember.

— By Jean Fox, Janice R. Nall.

1. Who are the users of this specific product?

2. What are their User specific & Use specific needs?

3. What are the users goals for using this product?

4. Which areas are critical for meeting the user goals efficiently?

5. What other products they have used?

6. What is the terminology they use?

Model for Stages of Use (for a particular application)

1. Novice
2. Advanced Beginner
3. Competent Performer
4. Expert

“User and Task Analysis for Interface Design” by Joann T.
Hackos, Janice C. Redish

1. Understand the Users
2. User goals, Business goals
3. User specific and use specific tasks
4. Define features
5. Design the work flow
6. Design the information structure
7. Design the front end
1. Card Sorting
Technique that allows users to group the information on your Web site and helps to ensure that the site structure matches the way users think.
2. Contextual Interviews
Method that enables you to observe users in their natural environment to better understand the way users work.
3. Focus Groups
Moderated discussion with a group of users that allows you to learn about users’ attitudes, ideas, and desires.
4. Heuristic Evaluation
Usability inspection method where a group of usability experts evaluate the Web site against a list of established heuristics (or guidelines).
5. Individual Interviews
One-on-one discussions with users that allow you to learn how a particular user works and enables you to probe on a user’s attitudes, desires and experiences.
6. Parallel Design
Technique where multiple designers create mock-ups of the user interface and the best aspects of each design are used in the final design.
7. Personas
A fictional person that represents one of the major user groups for the site. The design team considers the needs of this fictional person when developing the site.
8. Prototyping
Draft model (or mock-up) of the Web site that allows the design team to explore ideas before fully implementing them. A prototype can range from a paper mock-up to interactive html pages.
9. Surveys (Online)
Series of questions asked to multiple users of the Web site that helps you learn about the people who visit your site.
10. Task Analysis
Method that involves learning about users’ goals – what they want to do on your Web site – and understanding the tasks that users will perform on your site.
11. Usability Testing
One-on-one sessions where a “real-life” user performs tasks on the Web site in order to identify user frustrations and problems with the site.
12 Use Cases
Description of how users will use a particular feature of the Web site. Use cases provide a very detailed look at how users interact with the site including the steps a user will take to accomplish each task.
13 Writing for the Web
Guidelines for optimizing content on the Web based on the way users read online. Involves chunking content, using bulleted lists, and putting the most important information at the top of the page.
1) System Status shown
(Keep the user informed about what the computer is doing)
Providing feedback to the users
Appropriate method of feedback to be used
2) Match with the real World
Use simple and natural dialog. Tell only what is necessary, and tell it in a natural and logical order. Ask only what the user can answer.
Speak Users language
Use metaphors familiar to users
Use words and concepts familiar in their work.
No computer jargon.
3) User has to feel he is in command
Provide clearly marked exits so users can escape from unintended situations
User should be able to leave an unwanted state
Users should not get locked in the system
4) Consistency in terminology and required actions.
Consistency in communication
Names, Images
Use sequence, Use of Controls
Behavior of controls
5) Error prevention
Prevent errors from occurring by keeping choices and actions simple
UI should prevent an error from occurring
Minimize error situations
6) Error Recovery
Give good, clear, specific and constructive error messages in plain text, no beeps and codes
Error messages should
Clearly indicate the problem
Constructively help users solve the problem
Be polite and express in plain simple language
7) Recognition not recall
Minimize the user’s memory load
Objects and screens should be
Easily visible
Easy to interpret
User should not be forced to remember any information
8) Flexibility
Provide shortcuts for frequent actions and advanced users
Provide multiple ways to accomplish the same task
If possible provide freedom to customize the system
9) Minimalist Design
“Less is More”
Offer only relevant information and functions
Make invisible all the irrelevant information & functions
Seek minimum inputs from the users
10) Help and Documentation
(Provide clear and concise, online help, instructions and documentation. Orient them to the users task)
Anticipate where users will require help
Provide appropriate help

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A general principle for all user interface design is to go through all of your design elements and remove them one at a time. If the design works as well without a certain design element, kill it.   — Jakob Nielsen, author and consultant on user interfaces

A good website should have at least the usability and usefulness of a good book. But, although rarely fully exploited, it has the potential to be far more usable, largely because of the availability of hyperlinking.   — a Bellevue Linux Users Group member, August 2005

A well-designed and humane interface does not need to be split into beginner and expert subsystems.   — Jef Raskin, human-computer interface expert and a designer of the first Macintosh

Computer science departments have always considered ‘user interface’ research to be sissy work.   — Nicholas Negroponte, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory

Computing has gone from something tiny and specialized to something that affects every walk of life. It doesn’t make sense anymore to think of it as just one discipline. I expect to see separate departments of user interface, for example, to start emerging at universities.   — Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft executive

Don’t make me think.   — Steve Krug, usability expert

If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work.   — Susan Dray, usability consultant

Most websites today fail basic tests of usability.   — Forrester Research

No matter how good your backend systems are, the users will only remember your front end. Fail there and you will fail, period.   — Tristan Louis, writer about the Internet

The Interface is the system.   — unknown

The only ‘intuitive’ interface is the nipple. After that, it’s all learned.   — unknown (but often attributed to a Bruce Ediger)

Usability cost-benefit data shows that including usability in product development actually cuts the time to market and increases sales because usability and ease of use build quality into products and catch many expensive problems early on in the cycle when they can be addressed at lower cost. Finally, working with users from the beginning of a product cycle ensures that the product is being designed so that users will be satisfied.   — Claire Marie Karat, human-computer interface researcher at IBM

Usability is critical for any application, but for mass-market software, usability spells success or failure more clearly than any other feature.   — Jerrold Grochow, Chief Technology Officer, American Management Systems

Usability really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing – whether it’s a web site, remote control, or revolving door – for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.   — Steve Krug

Usability rules the Web. Simply stated, if the customer can’t find a product, then he or she will not buy it.   — Jakob Nielsen

User interfaces have to do with people, and computer scientists don’t like to work on problems involving people. The classic work on user interfaces that sets the current paradigm was invented outside of universities in industrial research laboratories and government-funded institutes.   — Stuart Card, interface researcher at Xerox PARC

… when folks read news online, their eyes go for text first, particularly captions and summaries, and graphics only later.   — Bryan & Jeff Eisenberg, usability consultants and authors

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  1. Motivate
    Design your site to meet specific user needs and goals. Use motivators to draw different user “personae” into specific parts of your site.
  2. User task flow
    Who are your users? What are their tasks and online environment? For a site to be usable, page flow must match workflow.
  3. Architecture – it’s 80% of usability
    Build an efficient navigational structure. Remember – if they can’t find it in 3 clicks, they’re gone.
  4. Affordance means obvious
    Make controls understandable. Avoid confusion between emblems, banners, and buttons.
  5. Replicate
    Why reinvent the wheel? Use ergonomically designed templates for the most common 8-12 pages.
  6. Usability test along the way
    Test early in design using low-fidelity prototypes. Don’t wait until the end when it’s too late.Know the technology limitations Identify and optimize for target browsers and user hardware. Test HTML, JavaScript, etc. for compatibility.
  7. Know the technology limitations
    Identify and optimize for target browsers and user hardware.Test HTML, JavaScript, etc for compatibility.
  8. Know user tolerances
    Users are impatient. Design for a 2-10 second maximum download. Reuse header graphics so they can load from cache. Avoid excessive scrolling.
  9. Multimedia – be discriminating
    Good animation attracts attention to specific information, then stops. Too much movement distracts, slowing reading and comprehension.
  10. Use a stats package
    Monitor traffic through your site. Which pages pique user interest? Which pages make users leave? Adjust your site accordingly.

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Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web.

More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging.

Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. The document “How People with Disabilities Use the Web” describes how different disabilities affect Web use and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using the Web.


Millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Currently most Web sites and Web software have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use the Web. As more accessible Web sites and software become available, people with disabilities are able to use and contribute to the Web more effectively.

Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. For example, a key principle of Web accessibility is designing Web sites and software that are flexible to meet different user needs, preferences, and situations. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging. The document “Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization” describes many different benefits of Web accessibility, including benefits for organizations.

Why Web Accessibility is Important

The Web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. An accessible Web can also help people with disabilities more actively participate in society.

The Web offers the possibility of unprecedented access to information and interaction for many people with disabilities. That is, the accessibility barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through Web technologies.

The document “Social Factors in Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization” discusses how the Web impacts the lives of people with disabilities, the overlap with digital divide issues, and Web accessibility as an aspect of corporate social responsibility.

Another important consideration for organizations is that Web accessibility is required by laws and policies in some cases. WAI Web Accessibility Policy Resources links to resources for addressing legal and policy factors within organizations, including a list of relevant laws and policies around the world.

Making the Web Accessible

Much of the focus on Web accessibility has been on the responsibilities of Web developers. However, Web software also has a vital role in Web accessibility. Software needs to help developers produce and evaluate accessible Web sites, and be usable by people with disabilities.

One of the roles of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is to develop guidelines and techniques that describe accessibility solutions for Web software and Web developers. These WAI guidelines are considered the international standard for Web accessibility.

The document “Essential Components of Web Accessibility” describes the different Web accessibility roles, and how specific improvements could substantially advance Web accessibility.

Making Your Web Site Accessible

Making a Web site accessible can be simple or complex, depending on many factors such as the type of content, the size and complexity of the site, and the development tools and environment.

Many accessibility features are easily implemented if they are planned from the beginning of Web site development or redesign. Fixing inaccessible Web sites can require significant effort, especially sites that were not originally “coded” properly with standard XHTML markup, and sites with certain types of content such as multimedia.

The document “Implementation Plan for Web Accessibilitylists basic steps for addressing accessibility in Web projects. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and techniques documents provide detailed information for developers.

Evaluating the Accessibility of a Web Site

When developing or redesigning a site, evaluating accessibility early and throughout the development process can identify accessibility problems early when it is easier to address them. Simple techniques such as changing settings in a browser can determine if a Web page meets some accessibility guidelines. A comprehensive evaluation to determine if a site meets all accessibility guidelines is much more complex.

There are evaluation tools that help with evaluation. However, no tool alone can determine if a site meets accessibility guidelines. Knowledgeable human evaluation is required to determine if a site is accessible.

The document “Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility” provides guidance on preliminary reviews using techniques to quickly assess some of the accessibility problems on a site. It also provides general procedures and tips for evaluating conformance to accessibility guidelines.

For More Information

The WAI Web site provides guidelines and resources to help make the Web accessible. These range from very short summaries, such as “Quick Tips to Make Accessible Web Sites,” to resources on managing accessibility, to detailed technical references.

Related resources for making the Web accessible are also available from other organizations, and many can be found on the Web.


Web “content” generally refers to the information in a Web page or Web application, including text, images, forms, sounds, and such. More specific definitions are available in the WCAG documents, which are linked from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview.

Web software includes:

People with disabilities sometimes use other software, called assistive technologies, to interact with the Web.

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This blog provides information and resources for key issues related to usability in website and software design.

I believe that helping people do their work in an effective and enjoyable way should be the top priority in design because if a product is not usable, people will not use it.

What is Usability?

Usability usally reffers to software but relevant to any products. Some ways to improve usability include:-

  1. Shortening the time to accomplish task
  2. Reducing the number of mistakes mads
  3. Reducing the learning time
  4. Improving people’s satisfaction with a system

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