Our first reading by Cooper was nicely written. We have now begun to take our concepts of perception and see how the apply to interface design. Specifically, Cooper illustrates that there are three models or parts to system design. You have your mental model (What/how you think the process or software should look.) Your implemented model (how the process is actually carried out, the inner workings of the computer or software) And you represented model (What is actually there, the designers chosen representation for the software or systems function). We have how we think it will work, how it actually works, and the method the designer created for you to make it work. Understandably, the closer you can get the represented model to match the user’s mental model, the easier the users will be able to use the product.
The UX book reading was a nice run down of what a usability inspector does and the different types of inspection techniques they could do. It also introduces the concept of heuristics. Heuristics are guidelines about interaction design, they’re only guidelines because there is no real absolutes when it comes to design. There is always an exception to rules of design. On page 476 there is even an example of what a usability inspector might fill out. I find it to be a good mesh between qualitative assessment and quantitative reporting. The inspector makes their decisions on a qualitative basis and then uses a uniform method of reporting the problem to make it easier for others to read the problems and fix them.
I am fond of the fact that usability and testing for heuristics uses qualitative methods. It makes perfect sense for them to be examine using qualitative methods but it is still delightful when you find qualitative methods out ‘in the wild’ so to speak.
It is interesting as well to note that a really good investigation would use three to five evaluators since they are using a qualitative system. That is the beauty of qualitative methods! No one is technically “wrong”, they just notice different things! Alternatively you could use one investigator and have multiple clients trying it out but this really depends on what method you are going to use. People don’t look at things the same way, nor do they operate them in the same manner. Ask someone to Google something and watch them. Do they type in the exact words you would use to search for it?
I wonder, do usability investigators have to state their bias? Is it assumed they are neutral or must they indicate in their findings things like, “Prefers minimalistic design, Thinks Google Chrome is the best OS, Hates having too many links on a page”?
The final reading was the list of ten usability heuristics. They seem to be fairly broad without being vague. They identify areas that problems can easily occur and state what should actually be happening. For example, one of them is called User Control and Freedom. Basically, it means that you should be able to go back or end a process easily. It should have an undo button as well as a redo or forward type system.
Overall, these were interesting readings. I am finding our usability readings to be very useable!
In HCI, both qualitative and quantitative approaches are used. We do whatever it takes to solve the problem.
I don’t know that usability evaluators are asked to reveal their biases… but I think for most of us, the usability guidelines and principles are so deeply drilled down that they end up defining our biases – which is good to get this particular job done!
I am glad you are finding the readings interesting… AND usable. Some people don’t like the UX Book. The content is great, but there may be something about it that makes it hard reading… what do you think?