What is a good combination of usability testing methods?
Usability testing early on in the development life cycle attempts to find severe problems that can be fixed as soon as possible. To be most successful, it is important to apply the most effective evaluation techniques at each stage. No single usability test seems to be universally applicable. There is little published advice on when to use which tests, and which techniques work best together. Beer, Anodenko and Sears suggested the effective use of two usability testing methods: cognitive walkthroughs and think-aloud evaluations.
Cognitive walkthroughs require evaluators to step through the actions users would perform to accomplish tasks while looking for usability problems. The technique originally focused on learnability issues and was considered difficult to apply. The technique has been modified over the years to be more usable by individuals with limited formal training in user interface evaluation.
Think-aloud evaluations involve having users attempt to perform specific tasks while thinking out loud. The primary goal of these evaluations is to discover what usability problems exist. Preparing for think-aloud evaluations involves recruiting and scheduling representative users, and developing a set of tasks for the users to perform.
This article suggests the combining of the two techniques. Designers should do cognitive walkthroughs followed by think-aloud evaluations. These work well together because task descriptions developed for the cognitive walkthroughs can be converted directly into the task descriptions needed for think-aloud evaluations.
A study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of using these two techniques. They found that using cognitive walkthroughs early-on allowed the most serious problems to be identified and corrected. This was done without the need to use representative users. Later, think-aloud evaluations were used to find the remaining problems.
How can we substantially improve the user interface design process?
One of the most exciting advances in the usability field is the creation of software that will simulate the behavior of typical users. Eventually, this will allow designers to conduct initial, and very effective usability tests, without requiring real users to perform the tasks. One of the most promising new methods is a system named Executive Process Interactive Control (EPIC).
To use the software, designers must specify a cognitive strategy and perceptual-motor processing parameters.
To ensure that the system behaves in a manner similar to actual users, many studies are being conducted to determine exactly how users respond in specific situations. In this study, Hornof and Kieras attempted to determine how users search for a known item in an unfamiliar menu. They made adjustments to their software until the new system responded to a menu selection task in exactly the same way as typical users.
This and other studies should eventually lead to a general purpose computer-based tool for evaluating the efficiency of user interfaces. User interface designers would provide a definition of a screen layout and a task, and the system would predict the time required for users to execute the task.
The development of formal evaluation methods, such as EPIC, has tremendous potential for significantly improving the quality of user interfaces.
A Pair of Techniques for Effective Interface Evaluation: Cognitive Walkthroughs and Think-Aloud Evaluations, Beer, T., Anodenko, T. and Sears, A., Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 41st Annual Meeting, 380-384, (1997).
Cognitive Modeling Reveals Menu Search is Both Random and Systematic, Hornof, A.J. and Kieras, D.E., Proceedings of CHI ‘97, 107-114, (1997).
Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox
HFI may use ‚Äúcookies‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúweb beacons‚ÄĚ to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users‚Äô PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.
HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.
HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.
In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or ‚Äúdummy‚ÄĚ test data.
HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users‚Äô experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.
HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI‚Äôs legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.
If a User includes such User‚Äôs personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User‚Äôs personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.
Information about Users that is maintained on HFI‚Äôs systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
1680 highway 1, STE 3600
Fairfield IA 52556
HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.
$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.
4 Pack + Exam registration: Rs. 10,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (4 Pack-CUA/CXA) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.
Individual Modules: Rs. 3,000 per participant ‚Äėper module‚Äô processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the course (any Individual HFI course) registration before three weeks from the course start date. No refund or carry forward of the course fees if cancelling or transferring the course registration within three weeks before the course start date.
Exam: Rs. 3,000 per participant processing fee (to be paid by the participant) if cancelling or transferring the pre agreed CUA/CXA exam date before three weeks from the examination date. No refund or carry forward of the exam fees if requesting/cancelling or transferring the CUA/CXA exam within three weeks before the examination date.
There will be no audio or video recording allowed in class. Students who have any disability that might affect their performance in this class are encouraged to speak with the instructor at the beginning of the class.
The course and training materials and all other handouts provided by HFI during the course are published, copyrighted works proprietary and owned exclusively by HFI. The course participant does not acquire title nor ownership rights in any of these materials. Further the course participant agrees not to reproduce, modify, and/or convert to electronic format (i.e., softcopy) any of the materials received from or provided by HFI. The materials provided in the class are for the sole use of the class participant. HFI does not provide the materials in electronic format to the participants in public or onsite courses.