The members of a systems development project team have gone out for lunch together, and as often happens, the conversation has turned to work. The team has been working on the development of the user interface design, and so far, work has been progressing smoothly. The team should be completing work on the interface prototypes early next week. A combination of storyboards and language prototypes has been used in this project. The storyboards depict the overall structure and flow of the system, but the team developed language prototypes of the actual screens because they felt that seeing the actual screens would be valuable for the users.
Chris (the youngest member of the project team): I read an article last night about a really cool way to evaluate a user interface design. It’s called usability testing, and it’s done by all the major software vendors. I think we should use it to evaluate our interface design.
Heather (system analyst): I’ve heard of that, too, but isn’t it really expensive?
Mark (project manager): I’m afraid it is expensive, and I’m not sure we can justify the expense for this project.
Chris: But we really need to know that the interface works. I thought this usability testing technique would help us prove we have a good design.
Amy (systems analyst): It would, Chris, but there are other ways, too. I assumed we’d do a thorough walkthrough with our users and present the interface to them at a meeting. We can project each interface screen so that the users can see it and give us their reaction. This is probably the most efficient way to get the users’ response to our work.
Heather: That’s true, but I’d sure like to see the users sit down and work with the system. I’ve always learned a lot by watching what they do, seeing where they get confused, and hearing their comments and feedback.
Ryan (systems analyst): It seems to me that we’ve put so much work into this interface design that all we really need to do is review it ourselves. Let’s just make a list of the design principles we’re most concerned about and check it ourselves to make sure we’ve followed them consistently. If we have, we should be fine. We want to get moving on the implementation, you know.
Mark: These are all good ideas. It seems like we’ve all got a different view of how to evaluate the interface design. Let’s try and sort out the technique that is best for our project.
Develop a set of guidelines that can help a project team like the one discussed here select the most appropriate interface evaluation technique for their project.