Userlab usability home page Course descriptions Usability testing and evaluations Recommended usability books Company description Free downloads Usability testing
test your software by putting it under the usability microscope

Find problems before your clients do

Every project uses usability testing. Unfortunately, much of it is done by unsuspecting users.

Development projects carry significant risks. The longer you wait to do usability testing, the greater that risk. Our design and evaluation services can reduce that risk by finding and correcting design problems early. This helps to get your project in on time and cuts down on costly reworks. A properly done usability test will:

  • identify navigation problems
  • reduce errors
  • improve the user experience.

And, it is important to start early.

Changes late in the development process cost 500 times more to fix
It is important to find issues as early as possible. Not only does this reduce the cost of any change, it allows the freedom to implement real solutions. If you wait too long, the freedom to change is restricted and you are forced to compromise.
   
User profiles What is your target population really like and which characteristics should be considered in your design? With an increasingly diverse work force it is important to define this target audience accurately. We can help you make certain you are designing for the correct range of users.
   
Task analysis Ask an employee how they do their job and they will usually describe how they are supposed to do it. We all know that this is rarely how it is done and the difference can lead to serious problems. Our skilled staff can do a detailed formal task analysis at a stage that will save you money. This will reduce the risk from poorly defined or overlooked tasks.


Early evaluations of the design In highly competitive markets, such as e-commerce, even small design issues can be very costly. It is much safer to evaluate a prototype to test design alternatives before you build. This can actually save development time by reducing costly changes later in the process. We use compact self-contained recording equipment which can be set up in a few minutes, the evaluations take a few hours to several days depending on the size of the project and/or the number of users tested. For projects of any size we recommend alternating the two types of formative evaluation.

Expert evaluations
reveal deviations from guidelines and principles. Our training and experience reveals problems that others overlook.

User evaluations reveal business related problems. Events are logged with detailed explanations.


Evaluations prior to delivery These should be scheduled towards the end of a project to look at the total package: installation and training, navigation and support services. Observation and recording equipment is used to make sure that nothing is missed. The equipment requires about half a day to set up. This evaluation usually runs for a week during which the development team observes remotely on special monitors. They watch the users struggle with the system and can discuss problems while being recorded in real-time. Typically, over 100 problems are logged per day, results surprise even the most experienced developer. Correcting them will determine the ultimate success of your project. Schedule this evaluation with enough time to correct. This investment always produces satisfaction.

Evaluations of completed systems

Our evaluations of existing systems produce unbiased assessments of design issues and highlight the potential for improvement. We will develop a practical and effective action plan to help improve the system:

  • meet business requirements
  • be easy to use and train on
  • have a low error rate
  • be as efficient as possible, etc.
  • and meet delivery and budget targets.
   
Evaluations of the work place

Thumbnail of workplcae ergonomic measurements
Our experts will examine your work place and equipment to ensure optimal performance with minimal risk. Repetitive strain injury (RSI or CTD) can be significantly reduced through choice of equipment and proper installation and adjustment. There is a liability risk if an RSI or CTD hazard is left until workers complain of injury. Computer assisted analysis of people doing their work discloses problems which can affect performance and lead to debilitating musculoskeletal injuries, lowered productivity and possible corporate liability.
   
Standards Our documentation and help specialists can assess your needs, develop a plan for you or even design and produce help and documentation. Corporate standards documents are a specialty. If you have already developed your own, we can assess and suggest how to improve it.

Product and proposal evaluations We can provide usability evaluations of computer software or equipment before you make a major purchase or award a major contract.

   

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updated
24 March, 2004