Saturday, July 22, 2006

Are usability analysts promising too much?

A look at what we are calling usability ...

"Adding his voice to a growing chorus, Australian usability commentator Anthony Quinn voices his opinion about the usability of local Web sites.

Perhaps it is a symptom of the pressing economic times, where every activity related to IT development has to justify itself but lately, usability analysts are promising too much.

Jakob Nielsen recently commented on the poor usability of some high-profile Australian websites. In typical Nielsen style, he pulled no punches. Dr Adir Shiffman responded with an intelligent article, adding depth to Nielsen's sensationalist remarks. Dr Shiffman rightly points out that usability - while key to commercial success - is just one aspect of the overall user experience, stating, "...the functionality of the site and its fitness for purpose is at the core of its usability".

However, the methods Dr Shiffman describes, while effective in gaining quantitative insight into the usefulness of a site, do not reliably assess functionality in anything other than the highest level. Usefulness is only one component of the user experience. There are other key considerations, namely effectiveness and reliability.

Effectiveness measures whether or not users can actually do what they are supposed to be able to do on a site. Can users complete key tasks on the site and can they do so with relative ease?

To an extent, Dr Shiffman is confusing usability and market research by promoting focus groups and surveys as a means of gathering quantitative data to gauge subjective opinions, attitudes and preferences on the "usefulness" of a site. Usability testing can also provide quantitative data."   (Continued via Builder AU)       [Usability Resources]

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