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The ease of use of an application is critical. The customer struggling with a badly designed order form will curse your site and turn to your competitor. Clients can be resentful. You won't lose just that one order – more likely, your customer will never return.

The usability of a application is often not immediately apparent. The design my be slick and cutting-edge. But does it really work well?

A cursory look won't help here. The usability of your application must be investigated more closely and ideally tested with users. I offer several usability services:

Usability reviews

A usability review assesses the ease of use of existing applications or services. This makes sense whenever a system or service fails to meet your expectations:

  • it is not recognised or used less often than anticipated
  • the conversion rate is low, users often abort tasks
  • users are vocal about problems (your support team will know where things go wrong most often)

In all these cases, a usability review can help to establish the causes for usability problems, so that you can address these problems in turn.

Usability reviews of competitor products can also be instructive. Think of developing a web application, information kiosk, or signage system where you can avoid all the mistakes that the incumbents have made.

What happens in a usability review?

Usability reviews can include both heuristic analyses, passive user obvservation, and explicitly prepared use scenarios.

An initial heuristic analysis will often pinpoint critical flaws which can be corroborated and extended through informal user observations.

The standard EN ISO 9241-110 (Ergonomics of Human System Interaction) offers a good basis for the analysis:

  1. suitability for the task
  2. suitability for learning
  3. suitability for individualisation
  4. conformity with user expectations
  5. self descriptiveness
  6. controllability (if applicable, i.e. in desktop or web applications)
  7. error tolerance (if applicable, i.e. in systems accommodating free form user input)

Observation of, and interviews with users von Benutzern requires their prior knowledge and agreement and is recorded — in informal notes or on video.

Use case analyses

The use case analysis servies to optimise the processes of your (planned) application. This doesn't only apply to be an elaborate processes. Use Cases can cover the common tasks of interacting with a web site, such as searching, or filling out a contact form.

The goal: Increase user satisfaction. When dealing wioth online ordering and purchasing processes, the goal os to increase the conversion rate – i.e., reduce the number of cases where user abandon a process before completion at the check-out.

Use case analyses are most userful as design input during initial development, when user interaction sequences are being planned. But they can also come in to improve processes during a re-design and re-lauch of a site.

User tests

In user tests provide snap shots of actual interaction sequences in your system (or prototype). In advance, the relevant use cases are determined in co-operation with the client. Methods are participant observation, Cognitive Walkthrough, and Think-Aloud Protocol where the user verbalises his or her experience during interaction. A final debriefing allows users to add their personal observations and comments.

When checking the accessibility of web sites and applications, involving people with disabilities in user tests is an important way to verify and extend the results of expert tests such as BITV-Test.