prototyping

UX thoughts visiting a NASA exhibition

A user-centered design vision of a visit to a NASA exhibition.

Last week I was visiting a NASA exhibition in Madrid. As a usability/UX specialist, I was prepared to see complex interfaces and panels full of buttons; and they were there. But two other things related to UX were called to my attention.

First, prototypes. One of the items at the exhibition was a sequence of prototypes of the lunar module that landed on the moon during the Apollo missions.

Second, checklists. Several old-fashioned paper checklists used during space missions were shown.

 Checklist used during a NASA space mission

I don’t know whether checklists are generally considered as a usability or user-centered design technique; anyway, I think they should. For more considerations about that technique, read the surprising and interesting book The Checklist Manifesto.

So two conclusions came to my mind:

  • When we talk about usability methods, it may seem that they are some kind of magic trick or very advanced technique; but most of them are simple and based upon common sense. And they have been performed during many years.
  • Since those kind of techniques have been performed during many years, and (most of) the missions were successful… hey, they somehow work!

Ship-boarding usability

Applying usability techniques during a development process that is already underway and little known may be really hard. Below I suggest a few techniques so as to “board the boat” in an effective way.

Disponible también en español

Board the ship (detail)

Jakob Nielsen defined guerrilla HCI as a collection of usability techniques that may be performed along development projects in an informal and fast way, requiring few resources, getting acceptable results and avoiding the intimidation barrier of using that kind of techniques.

One advantage of guerrilla HCI is that it can be performed without great involvement of the development team, and consequently, it is useful in traditional website development.

According to their own nature, websites must be self-explanatory and their interface must follow existing standards in order to make possible that anyone can use it without advanced skills neither previous training.

For example, guerrilla HCI could be perfectly applied in the evaluation of an e-commerce website or one belonging to a university since, in principle, they don’t require special knowledge.

Nevertheless, there are cases where it’s not that simple… (more…)