We can provide a usability engineer on a contract basis to work with your in-house team, or help you assemble a team which also includes a branding and messaging expert, a graphic designer, a web developer and an SEO expert. We can also mentor and coach your in-house user experience team.
Please note that we can provide any and all services in support of projects developing desktop software applications, web-enabled applications, intranets or public websites.
You can contract for a single service or any combination of services. Projects can range from a single, brief, high level heuristic evaluation, to integration of the full Usability Engineering Lifecycle within a complete development project.
Evaluation techniques can provide invaluable direction at any point in the development lifecycle. Evaluation of existing applications or websites can identify “points of pain” to be addressed in redesign efforts. “Formative” evaluation applied during an iterative design process can refine design as it evolves and while design changes are relatively inexpensive. “Summative” evaluation can validate design before launch and/or track success after launch.
Studies have shown that expert assessments – “heuristic evaluations” – by experienced usability professionals usually predict a large percentage of what would be revealed by formal usability testing techniques (see below). When budgets or other constraints preclude formal testing, heuristic evaluations provide a very cost-effective alternative.
Based on extensive experience and expertise, we can conduct an evaluation of your existing user interface, prototype user interface or user interface design specification document. Results are documented in a format similar to a code “bug report”. We identify and prioritize potential problems and opportunities for improvement, and, if desired, provide specific recommendations for redesign.
Formal Usability Testing
A testing project includes: getting up to speed on product business goals, target audience and key user tasks; developing appropriate test tasks and other supporting test materials; defining test user recruiting criteria; running test users (in moderated tests); collecting, analyzing and interpreting performance data and subjective user reactions; drawing conclusions; and if desired, making specific recommendations for design improvements.
We can conduct formal usability tests on paper and pencil mockups, live prototypes, or already launched applications or websites. Testing can be moderated or un-moderated, and can be conducted in a lab, in the field, or remotely.
Based on knowledge, experience and expertise in cognitive psychology, user interface design principles and the software development process, we provide expert input to your team so that the first draft of your software or website user interface design is closer to the mark. This minimizes iterative testing and redesign effort down the line, and helps avoid the very real costs of a poor user experience.
Based on requirements, and with input from developers to insure implementability, we develop a wireframe that: lays out an organizational structure (in a website, the Information Architecture or site map); identifies user interface elements that must be standardized in a “Style Guide” to insure simplicity and consistency; and defines interaction behaviors both on the user and on the system side.
In the case of a website, which requires more than just usability, collaboration with a branding expert and a graphic designer will insure optimization the user experience.
Any software or web-enabled application, intranet or website development effort will be more likely to achieve its business goals when premised on a thorough and accurate understanding of the target audience, their context of use, and their key tasks. This is just as true of user interface design as it is of functional design.
Optimized user interface design is premised in part on a clear understanding of the key characteristics of the intended user population. If requirements data is not already available in house, we can employ techniques such as structured interviews and questionnaires to gather pertinent data on user skill sets, educational level, job experience level, technology literacy, attitudes and motivational level, demographics and other relevant audience dimensions. We then draw implications from the data for interface design in the form of usability goals.
Optimized user interface design is also premised on a clear understanding of the users’ current job and tasks, underlying goals, mental models of their work processes and products, professional jargon, and work environment.
Structured and unstructured interviews, field observation, and card sorting are among the techniques we can apply to uncover key aspects of the tasks being automated and translate them into usability goals.
Based on our decades of deep and broad experience practicing in the field of usability and user experience engineering, we can serve as coaches/mentors to your in-house junior usability/user experience staff, graphic designers and developers, providing valuable knowledge transfer into your organization.