Saturday, September 01, 2007

Process or Outcome? Measuring the Success of Usability

The criteria for measuring usability ...

"A friend has been working with a client for 9 months. She’s sort of been ‘usability midwife’ to the birth of their redesigned web site: a major development, loads of nasty back-end integration problems, the effort of many teams. Her role was to conduct a series of usability tests on different iterations. And she told me it had finally launched.

“So, are you pleased with it?” I asked.

“No, it’s horrible” she said. “But it’s much better than it might have been”.

Which led me to brooding on how we measure our successes.

THE THEORY OF MEASURING USABILITY SUCCESS

Measuring the usability of something is quite easy: define your product, users, goals and context. Run a measurement evaluation (also known as ‘summative evaluation’). Publish your report. You’re done. There’s even an ISO standard for reporting these results: the "Common Industry Format". And you’ll find discussion of the details of how to do it in any of the standard textbooks: my own, for example.

But that’s a different matter from measuring the success of “usability”, meaning a single or series of user-centred design activities. I’m going to call this a ‘usability intervention’.

To measure the success of a usability intervention, we need to know:
- what the starting point was, ideally by measuring the usability of the product before the usability intervention
- how the usability intervention affected the product
- what the finishing point was, by measuring the usability of the product again.

Do some sums, and bingo: you’ve got a return-on-investment success story."    (Continued via Usability News - Caroline's Corner)    [Usability Resources]

1 Comments:

Blogger Marcel Kornblum said...

This is all well and good if your budget stretches to an extra evaluation at the beginning of the process to act as a benchmark.

In my experience getting the budget agreed in the first place is hard enough; many sites that go this far have a far easier metric you can use: conversions.

1:19 PM  

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