Sunday, January 21, 2007

Usability heuristics for web development teams

Things that have been overlooked in usability heuristics ...

"Often when clients have a relatively low budget for usability testing, or a short amount of time in which to conduct it, an ‘expert’ or an ‘heuristic’ review will be run by an experienced usability practitioner. There are slight differences between the two, with the expert review entailing a less formal evaluation process than the heuristic review. But all things considered, they’re pretty much in the same ballpark time wise… So I suppose that means cost wise too.

There are a number of advantages in conducting either type of review. As I mentioned above, where resources are limited, they can be an effective and efficient method of assessing a site; the time and cost associated with recruiting, interviewing and paying test participants is negated. These evaluation methods can also be conducted very easily and consistently throughout the life of a site, providing a benchmark as well as a periodical health-check.

In conducting an heuristic review, a series of guidelines or checkpoints is used by the usability expert to assess a site (or application). In conducting an expert review however, these specific guidelines may not be utilised, with the practitioner relying on their expertise of general usability principles to review the site at hand.

Arguably, the most well known usability heuristics are those developed by Jakob Nielsen, who outlines ten rules of thumb. There are numerous variations of Nielsen’s ‘standard ten’ including an extremely detailed checklist developed by Deniese Pierotti for Xerox. Pierotti’s heuristics use Nielsen’s ten rules as a foundation, but then goes further by providing individual checkpoints specific to each rule. It’s definitely an extensive list of usability checkpoints, and one which I expect was developed for a particular environment.

The thing is…

I believe there are a whole lot of things that haven’t been considered in these lists. If we’re going to take a best practice, user centred, holistic, may the force be with you approach to web development, surely there should be a broader focus; and one that incorporates as many areas of front end development into an heuristic review as possible.

If we consider the Information Architect (IA), the ‘JavaScripter’ and the web standards developer, each of these roles has a great deal they can contribute to creating a better, more holistic set of usability heuristics."    (Continued via SitePoint)    [Usability Resources]


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