UX (User eXperience)

Software testing and usability: so close, so far

Software testing and usability are usually seen as independent fields, but they seem to have many common aspects. Why not trying to integrate both of them?

In my previous job as an expert in usability and accessibility, I was a member of the Software Quality Area inside my company. There I realized that, although they are closely related, usability and software testing are, in practice, developed as totally independent disciplines, with:Usability and software testing, working together

  • different experts and teams
  • different methodologies and techniques
  • different tools

Couldn’t they be more integrated?

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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!

La resaca de UX Spain

Algunas reflexiones acerca del reciente evento sobre Experiencia de Usuario en Salamanca, antes de que se enfríen.

Recién terminado el congreso UX Spain (por cierto, tenéis disponibles los resúmenes de las charlas), aprovecho para dejar aquí las experiencias y sensaciones que me ha dejado. Y la principal es muy positiva: por desgracia, suelo tener pocas ocasiones de intercambiar ideas y experiencias con otros colegas de la User eXperience, y esta ha sido una ocasión perfecta de practicar la terapia de grupo: he disfrutado de compartir estos días con vosotros.
Además, la logística de la organización ha rozado la perfección: horarios, atención a los participantes y ponentes, material, etc. Ya tuve ocasión de felicitar a los organizadores por conseguir arrancar un congreso sobre un tema que, como se pudo comprobar, ni siquiera sabemos exactamente a qué se refiere.

UX Spain 2012

En cuanto a las ponencias, como en cualquier congreso, ha habido de todo; pero yo diría que, dada la gran variedad tanto de los perfiles de los asistentes como de los temas tratados, el resultado ha sido más que aceptable. Por poner alguna pega, he tenido cierta sensación de que parecíamos descubrir como nuevos asuntos que ya llevan tiempo tratándose en otros países; quizá he echado en falta algo más de autocrítica; y, para próximas ediciones, sería interesante tener otras voces, ajenas a la comunidad: usuarios, clientes, etc.

En cuanto a mi charla, a pesar de que tenía algunas dudas en cuanto a cómo encajaría entre el resto, he quedado más que satisfecho por el feedback que he recibido tanto en vivo como a través de Twitter; espero no haberme encasillado como “el que no encuentra trabajo de UX” 🙂

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Epicurious: evaluando una aplicación para smartphones

Las evaluaciones de usabilidad no son únicamente para páginas web; esta presentación es un ejemplo de una evaluación rápida realizada sobre una aplicación para smartphones.

La aplicación evaluada es Epicurious para Android, que permite acceder a una gran cantidad de recetas disponibles en su sitio web desde un dispositivo móvil.

Estas son las secciones de la presentación:

  • Introducción
  • Estructura y funcionalidades
  • Interacción
  • Puntos fuertes
  • Puntos débiles
  • Posibles mejoras
  • Líneas de trabajo propuestas
  • Conclusiones
  

Lo más interesante no es tanto la aplicación en sí, sino comprobar que una evaluación de usabilidad puede aplicarse perfectamente a cualquier interfaz, no solo a sitios web. Y que lo mismo ocurre con las técnicas de Diseño Centrado en el Usuario.

METAeuFORiAS: Un sitio web es como un restaurante

Un artículo que compara los elementos de un sitio web (contenido, UX, diseño) con los que serían sus equivalentes en un restaurante.

Esa es la analogía que hacía el artículo Your Website – The Restaurant Analogy hace algunas semanas. El punto de partida es que las primeras páginas de resultados de Google son como esas esquinas tan bien situadas en la que todos los restaurantes quieren instalarse (lo que se conoce como SEO en el mundo de web). Y la metáfora se puede llevar más allá…

Ordenador dispuesto para la cena

Seguir leyendo en METAeuFORiAS…

‘UX interpretations’ as a UCD technique

UX Interpretations could be a useful technique to translate common poorly-specified requirements into a more UX friendly format.

User Centered Design techniques during the requirements phase (source: UsabilityNet)Some User-Centered Design techniques are supposed to be conducted during the requirements phase of the software development life-cycle, but in most real-world projects the usability/UX team cannot perform them, usually for reasons like these:

  • Requirements are defined by another team (business analysts) and the UX team is not involved in this phase; they usually don’t take part until the design phase.
  • The UX team is involved when the project is almost finished (and the interface problems are already pretty severe).

Yes, we know that the UX team should participate since the early stages of the development, but… what can we do when we are faced to given requirements, which are usually incomplete, long lists of technical features, and which have nothing to do with UCD techniques like use cases or user stories?

UX Interpretations

Last June, Greg Lauger explained in his article ‘Matching Requirements with User Experience‘ on Johnny Holland Magazine some techniques used in that kind of situations, and I think that the ‘UX Interpretation‘ approach (he calls it a “collaborative clarification”) is a great idea and could be used as a UCD technique on its own.

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Psychological usability heuristics

This is a proposal for a set of usability heuristics coming from known psychological facts about the human mind, including a spreadsheet that may be used in practical heuristic evaluations.

Psychology and usabilitySome time ago, Susan Weinschenk (@thebrainlady in Twitter) wrote about the psychologist view of UX design, listing a number of facts discovered by psychology about the human mind that may be directly applied to interfaces design. And I think that’s an important point; although usability experts try to put the user in the center of every step through the design process, principles and best practices are usually referred to technical aspects of the development of interfaces. That’s what happens with most of the principles used when evaluating interfaces in heuristic evaluations.

So… why don’t we use those psychological facts as heuristic principles when evaluating interfaces, instead of the typical technical ones? To that end, I have translated Susan’s points into heuristic principles and checkpoints that may be used to evaluate interfaces, creating a spreadsheet to make evaluations easier. Here you have it:

Psychological Usability Heuristics spreadsheet (Google Docs)

Of course, the translation of facts into heuristics is subjective, and this work may be updated and/or expanded at any time; anyway, I think this may be a good approach to usability from a more human perspective.

Feel free to use this spreadsheet for your own work (you may have to download or make a copy before). Any feedback about this work will be welcome!

Update 19-sep-2011

I have contacted Susan Weinschenk explaining her this idea, and this is her kind reply:

Hi Jordi,
Thanks for writing.
It’s a very interesting idea. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself!
Have you read my book: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People? Probably more ideas in there too.
Susan

I haven’t read ‘100 Things‘ (yet), but I have read her previous book and multiple articles in her blog. I wonder if 100 things may lead to 100 heuristic principles. It seems like a lot of work for me alone; maybe if this first idea achieves some success…