Userfocus Usability Newsletter, April 2010

Welcome to the April edition of the Userfocus usability newsletter.

Message from the Editor

Yogi Berra, a baseball player also known for fracturing the English language, once said: "You can observe a lot by watching". If Yogi had ever sat through a usability test, he might also have said: "You can forget a lot by not remembering". A usability test generates a wealth of data — some people have described it as like drinking from a fire hydrant — yet most people fail to take extensive notes during test sessions. This month's article provides some hints and tips on how to observe a usability test without missing a problem and includes a macro-free Excel spreadsheet you can use to timestamp your observations.

On the topic of user evaluation, I'd like to thank the Twitterverse for the title of this month's article. Unsure of the best title, I asked about 2000 people on Twitter for the answer and this was by far the most popular. Let's see if taking my own medicine works…

Last month's two Axure training courses were both sold out, so if you're interested in our upcoming courses in "GUI Usability", "Morae Essentials"and "Web Usability" you should reserve your place via our web site. I hope you'll be able to join us on one of these courses in London so I can put a face to the email address!

David Travis

Feature article: Log usability tests like a pro

Observing a usability test seems simple but it's easy to lose focus during a session and record only the dramatic or obvious usability problems. As you watch the test, you should make minute-by-minute observations of the participant's behaviour as single letter codes. Datalogging ensures you note all behaviours, not just the ones that stand out, and provides all you need to quickly create a list of usability issues you can pass to the design team. Read the article in full: Log usability tests like a pro.

What we're reading

Some interesting usability-related articles that got our attention over the last month:

  • If you're a paper prototyper, you'll find this great collection of free sketching, wireframing and note-taking PDF templates very useful.
  • If you're an electronic prototyper, you'll be interested in Protonotes: this looks like a simple way to allow clients and colleagues to comment on your wireframes/prototypes.
  • Anyone interested in information visualisation will find these infographics done in the style of Google Maps fascinating.
  • If you've been tasked with the design of a usability lab, you'll find some design inspiration in this photographic tour of 31 usability labs.
  • For something lighter — after all, it is April 1st — try the Onion's take on writing for the web.

Like these? Want more? Follow us on Twitter.

Usability Training: Now Booking

GUI Usability, April 20-21, London

For developers designing desktop software who want to make their interfaces simple to use, "GUI Usability" is a 2-day immersion seminar that gives delegates hands-on experience with several usability tools and techniques. More information about this training course: GUI Usability.

Morae Essentials, May 6, London

For new users of Techsmith's Morae who want to run a usability test, "Morae Essentials" is a 1-day seminar that shows delegates how to set up, observe, log and analyse a usability test with Morae. More information about this training course: Morae Essentials.

Web Usability, June 16-17, London

For web designers who want hands-on experience with usability tools and techniques, 'Web Usability' is a 2-day immersion seminar that shows delegates how to boost sales and conversion rates, increase usage and improve customer satisfaction. More information about this training course: Web Usability.

User Experience quotation of the month

"I have a lot of trouble with your remote controls. Too many arrows." — HM Queen Elizabeth II, speaking to Sony's CEO Howard Stringer.

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