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Tips for Usability Professionals in a Down Economy

Tom Tullis

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 2, February 2009, pp. 60-69

Article Contents

Tip #9: Compare Design Alternatives

You get much more out of a usability study if you can compare design alternatives. While this may not sound like a way to be more cost-effective, I think it is in the long run. Too many design teams get locked in to one basic design solution early on, then they just fine-tune that, perhaps through iterative usability testing. This is what Bill Buxton (2007) calls "getting the design right," which he contrasts with "getting the right design." By starting down one design path too early, you may very well miss other significantly different designs that are much better. But many design teams often will resist pursuing alternatives, perhaps because of the pressure of schedules and resources. So you might have to be the "evangelist" for comparing alternatives.

Some of the kinds of comparisons you might want to evangelize include the following:

One of the best ways to compare alternative designs is through online usability studies. We've done online studies where we simultaneously compared as many as 10 different designs in a between-subjects design. With over 1,000 participants in these studies, we got plenty of data on each design to be able to make quite accurate comparisons between them. And we've done these studies in just a few days.

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