This week it is back to school for 2 Aardvarks as I am attending ‘Usability Week’ – an intensive 5 day course in usability and user experience run by Nielson Norman Group. At the end of the course, examinations lead to certification in usability.
I find usability a really interesting area. There are plenty of travel systems out there that have really great functionality, and in some cases good visual appearance, but poor usability makes users less efficient than they could be, or even openly negative about the system. Things like poor layout, unintuitive workflows, lack of signals to the users about system status etc all contribute to a poor user experience.
Unfortunately in the rush to get products to market, testing and refactoring of the user experience is often one of the first things to be neglected. I am currently working on an internal application for one of my clients in the capacity of product owner – specifying the detail of the system functionality. With very aggressive deadlines, and a long list of functionality to be delivered, we have had to be fairly savage about cutting the number of iterations of design and development to get the system up and running in time. Sadly this has meant that the current user experience is patchy and in places unintuitive. For the second version of the software, I hope to devote one or more development sprints to refactoring usability, and hope to apply some of the skills I learnt his week during our user pilot next month.
So what are the 6 most important things I learned on day 1 – User Experience Basic Training, presented by Kathryn Whitenton?
- People’s success in carrying out a particular task, and their satisfaction levels do not necessarily correlate
- 10% of your project budget should be dedicated to usability. This can improve a website sales conversion rate by 87%
- I am not the user – it is imperative to carry out studies with real users and use the feedback to drive the direction of the design
- You only need 5 users in a test to detect 85% of the problems
- Try to integrate features for both novice and expert users so you are providing a good user experience to different types of users
- You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you can/should use pattern libraries and platform conventions to make design and workflows more intuitive
More information about usability week can be found on the NN/g website: http://www.nngroup.com/training/