Userfocus Usability Newsletter, September 2011

Welcome to the September edition of the Userfocus usability newsletter.

Message from the Editor

When you buy a ‘new build’ house — a house that’s been freshly minted and unlived in — the builder gives you the opportunity to visit the house before you part with your cash and make a list of the items that you think need some attention. The process is called ‘snagging’. This might include doors that don’t close perfectly, window catches that need a bit of oil or walls that need an extra coat of paint.

For a small fee, there are people who will visit the house and ‘snag’ it for you. These people are often ex-builders or construction managers. As well as finding the problems that you’ve noticed they will also find the things you’ve missed, like imperfect brickwork, loose tiles or failures to meet building regulations.

These reviews normally take a couple of hours and cost a fraction of the price of a full-blown house survey. But they are an efficient way to find the main problems with a new building, which makes them a popular choice with house buyers.

The field of user experience has its own equivalent of snagging: it’s called a usability expert review. Although never a replacement for usability testing (akin to the more thorough house survey by a chartered surveyor), expert reviews are quick to carry out and they are a relatively cheap way to find the usability bloopers in an interface. This month I’ve written about some common mistakes that I often see in usability expert reviews. I hope you enjoy it.

David Travis

Feature article: Do you make these 4 mistakes when carrying out a usability review?

When properly carried out, usability reviews are a very efficient way of finding the usability bloopers in an interface. But there are four common mistakes made by novice reviewers: failing to take the user's perspective; using only a single reviewer, rather than collating the results from a team; using a generic set of usability principles rather than technology-specific guidelines; and lacking the experience to judge which problems are important. Read the article in full: Do you make these 4 mistakes when carrying out a usability review?.

Updated resource: UX Stencil for Omnigraffle, Visio, Pencil & Keynote

This stencil will help you communicate user experience activities and user experience deliverables to clients and development teams. You can download it in a format suitable for Omnigraffle, Visio, Pencil or Keynote. If you use another drawing application, we also provide a PDF version that you can use. Read the article in full: UX Stencil for Omnigraffle, Visio, Pencil & Keynote.

What we're reading

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

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Resources for user experience managers

If you manage a user experience team, you might want to try one of these articles from our archives.

Like these? Want more? See all 20 of our articles on user experience management.

Usability Training: Now Booking

How to carry out a usability expert review, September 19, London.

Learn cost-effective methods to evaluate user interfaces. More information about this training course: How to carry out a usability expert review.

Web Usability: Designing the user experience, October 24-25, London.

A fast-paced, 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: Designing the user experience.

A Practical Guide to Usability Testing, November 21, London.

Learn how to obtain customer feedback on prototypes and finished products. More information about this training course: A Practical Guide to Usability Testing.

User Experience quotation of the month

“I know you have a thousand ideas for all the cool features iTunes could have. So do we. But we don't want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying 'Yes' to everything. It's about saying 'No' to all but the most crucial features.” — Steve Jobs.

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