Userfocus Usability Newsletter, March 2012

Welcome to the March edition of the Userfocus usability newsletter.

Message from the Editor

Has this ever happened to you? I recently worked with a publishing company who had a brand new idea for improving collaboration in their intranet. It was an interesting idea but it hadn't been done before so I encouraged them to test it with users. "Of course," they said. "We just need a bit of time to develop it."

I could see their point of view. It was their baby. They wanted to give their design its best shot. After all, you wouldn't show your homework to teacher until you'd formatted it properly. But there's a problem with delaying testing until a design is fully finished — if you're designing something to solve a problem few people have, no amount of improvements will make it useful. Usefulness, after all, comes before usability.

In the project I was consulting on, the testing got pushed back. And back. Eventually, the new feature got tested a week before release. It turned out to be neither useful nor usable. Ah well.

So in this month's article I've written about some rapid techniques you can use to test out your idea while it's still that — an idea.

I hope you find it useful (and usable!).

David Travis

Feature article: Lean ways to test your new business idea

In ‘The Lean Startup’, Eric Ries describes a design process to help manage risk when developing new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This article describes three established user experience techniques we can use to support this design process: narrative storyboarding; paper prototyping; and the Wizard of Oz. Read the article in full: Lean ways to test your new business idea.

What we're reading

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

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Resources for prototyping user interfaces

If you're interested in learning more about prototyping user interfaces, you might want to try one of these articles from our archives.

Like these? Want more? See all 12 of our articles on prototyping user interfaces.

Usability Training: Now Booking

Morae Essentials, March 19, London.

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

How to carry out a usability expert review, April 23, London.

A fast-paced, 1-day seminar that teaches you cost-effective methods to evaluate designs. Unlike courses in usability testing, this seminar teaches you how to find and fix usability problems without involving end users. More information about this training course: How to carry out a usability expert review.

Web Usability: Designing the user experience, May 21-22, London.

A hands-on 2-day immersion seminar that shows how the various user experience tools and techniques fit into real-world design and development processes. More information about this training course: Web Usability: Designing the user experience.

User Experience quotation of the month

“There is no such thing as information overload, just bad design. If something is cluttered and/or confusing, fix your design.” — Edward Tufte.

Hungry for more?

Read previous newsletters.


Contextual inquiry: how to plan, execute and analyse a site visit

Oct 20, London: Learn how to get the most from a field visit to a customer location. More details

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