I’m currently teaching two 2-hour labs each week for an undergraduate software engineering course. The first few weeks of the course have been about design methodology and requirements engineering. In this post I’ll describe last week’s lab on requirements gathering which was met with rave reviews from the students!
There is already a myriad of information available on the web about Heuristic Evaluation (HE). The purpose of this post is not to simply re-iterate that information. As a usability practitioner I have performed many heuristic evaluations on websites and software applications, and have helped other people with less experience perform heuristic evaluations. In this post you will find a brief summary of HE, and answers to some of the common questions I am asked by new heuristic evaluators.
I couldn’t help but to keep thinking about my post “What is Usability?” long after I pressed the “Publish” button. As much as I like Krug’s definition of usability, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that it is missing something:
…usability really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing–whether it’s a Web site, a fighter jet, or a revolving door– for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what that something really was. I tried to let it go and tackle to seemingly impossible pile of work I have to do, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I started to stress out, and that’s when it hit me…
Yes! The creative juices are flowing. You feel the rush; the euphoria that comes along with new insight! A new thought, a creative, inspired moment – a Eureka! moment – in which you’ve come up with a new idea. A new way to solve an old problem; an old way to solve a new problem. Lo, it matters not! What matters is that you’re going to create something. (Okay, yes, the “Lo,” may have been a little dramatic, but I came riding out of the uterus singing Flight of the Bumblebee, on a bicycle decked out with streamers — my poor mother.)
The creative process takes on generally the same shape regardless of what it is that you’re creating. You identify a need, come up with an idea, and then you implement it… right?
No! This is not right. Unfortunately though, this is what happens far too often in practice. This post is all about process; having the right approach is they key to creating something usable (be it a hammer, a cell phone, or, in our example, a website). A good approach is worth many, many genius programmers.
Somebody called me a usability expert the other day. Usability expert, I repeated to myself, smiling — ohhh, I liked the sound of that. Yes, I’m completing a masters in human computer interaction, this is true. Yes, I love to think about usability and am constantly considering the usability of everything I interact with. Yes, you will find books related to various aspects of usability and human-centered design on my bookshelf.
So, you can understand how quickly my satisfaction turned to emotional catastrophe when I found myself deer-eyed when confronted with the question, “So, what exactly is usability?” I floundered for a few minutes, then said some nonsensical sentence filled with fluffy superlatives designed to obfuscate the fact that I hadn’t taken the time to really think about this most obvious question. So, humbled, I took to the place of knowledge…
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