Fast-Track UCD Techniques


Fast-Track UCD Techniques

The problem: we are being asked to do more UCD work, faster, and with smaller staffs. Sound familiar? Thirteen practitioners met in Asheville, N.C. at UPA 2000 to examine the questions of how we can reduce time and costs and still achieve good results. They developed many practical tips and considerations, which are available in the full UPA 2000 Workshop Report: Shortening the Cycle by J.O. (Joe) Bugental and Kristin Travis, Sun Microsystems.

This useful report contains lists of recommendations in four major problem areas:

  • Managing the Usability Process: Bring in usability support as early as possible... Insinuate yourself into the process... Document points in the schedule at which usability input is crucial... Become an integral member of the team...

  • Roles: Clearly define roles... Standardize UCD processes... Be sure you understand all the constraints early on... Build relationships... Foster communication among different roles... Assign the right people to various roles... Use matrix organization...

  • Education & Communication: Collaborate in the early stages... Communicate "the mess"... Get involved early on... Write succinct reports... Do meeting summaries...

  • The Practice of Usability: Investigation... Problem definition... Data collection... Analysis and reporting... Follow-up...

The full report includes an inventory of techniques that have worked for the workshop participants in the past. Here's a sampling:

  • Modified heuristic evaluations: require fewer evaluators, shorter lists of heuristics, paying attention to fewer interface issues, or asking developers to play a greater role in the evaluation process. Moving faster, we may gain some team buy-in. Potential losses include shallow data, incomplete results, and inconsistencies between the issues addressed and not addressed.

  • Modified lab testing: requires fewer or shorter sessions, smaller teams, flimsier prototypes, or shorter reports. Advantages include doing something over doing nothing, collaborating with developers and users, and accommodating everyone's busy schedules. Disadvantages may include conclusions based on insufficient data, missing some spontaneous discoveries, and heavier demands on the individuals doing the work.

  • Discussion of economical alternative techniques including surveys, competitive analyses, paper prototypes, remote testing, portable labs, fireside chats, and debriefing brainstorms.

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