Need tips on how to formalize usability activities in a big Internet business organization

16 Sep 2009 - 10:22pm
4 years ago
5 replies
867 reads
Shuan Lo
2009

Hi! I work in an e-commerce group. My department manager is interested
in building design research into our work processes from scratch. The
function of our department is a hybrid between product manager,
designer, and project manager.

We are looking into issues such as "do we need an official policy to
state that what kind of projects should always involve user testing",
"when business units come to us to build something, can we insist
that the concept be user tested first?"

Seems like we are trying to institutionalizing usability - to quote
the title of a book that I've not read.

If you work in an organization where usability and UCD is fairly
matured and formalized, could you share your experiences with me
please?

Thank you.

Comments

17 Sep 2009 - 7:37am
brendon.cornwel...
2009

It makes sense to do usability testing on any application. You
wouldn't release the code without testing it for bugs, so why
release an interface without testing it for usability?

But as far as a general policy - you could recommend x number of
rounds of testing depending on the size of the project. A small
project, for example, might just require a heuristic study, while a
medium project you could scope in one or two rounds of usability
testing.

-Brendon

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17 Sep 2009 - 7:40am
MediaMetrics India
2009

Hi Shuan,

This is a confusion that circles almost in every department, when,
what and to what extent are questions which are very difficult to
answer. But if you are asking about formalising usability then i can
tell you from my experience working for big brands, we dont
differential usability stage and concept ideation stage to large
extent, ofcourse its not a parallel process.

We have to set a standard rather than varying stand for clients and
their needs. We made this mistake by giving too much of thought and
research for bigger clients and ignoring for smaller, but the output
varied a lot and so the client satisfaction and user satisfaction.

I dont know if i answered your query, but my philosophy for my
business is to bring usability, usability testing part of their macro
owner (design and testing phases) and make it compulsory to the extent
of budget.

Hope you got my point, let me know if i wrote some crap :), or if its
useful please go ahead and take a plunge to a cleaner and a stronger
process which is set for the workflow rather than client or product
(ofcourse extent and dimension of the job might vary from each
product and service)

Thanks,

Sathish Sampath
www.sathishsampath.com

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20 Sep 2009 - 8:10am
dszuc
2005

"do we need an official policy to state that what kind of projects
should always involve user testing"

Hi Shuan:

Where would this policy come from?

I ask as it something like this can be seen as imposing or enforcing
a rule onto people or a process that is not ready for it. The last
think you want to be seen as is the "usability police"

I have seen UCD embedded into process that ensures that Usability is
included, but may not always promise product success. So its also a
question of whether the right questions and Usability methods are
being applied from the start of the project, where the sweet spot is
for both design and UX.

Suggest when considering how to involve your customers/stakeholders
into your product design and development avoid the use of jargon and
find simple ways to get user feedback at the right time and more
importantly ways to communicate this back into the design quickly.

Usability Testing may be one place to start or a hybrid approach of
interviews/usability testing and design may work well too.

rgds,
Dan

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21 Sep 2009 - 12:09am
neha
2009

I am a consultant to a web based product company and we are trying to
'institutionalise' Usability in the organization.
In my opinion, not all projects need User Testing at the concept level.
There may be some projects where we develop prototypes based on our
experience as experts and then take them to users for testing.
However, in some cases, the concept has ambiguity or we want to know if
there are any latent needs of users or we just want to refine our concept
and thoughts. In these cases, we conducts Focus Groups or one to one
interviews to get feedback from users before we hit our drawing boards.

-----Original Message-----
From: new-bounces at ixda.org [mailto:new-bounces at ixda.org] On Behalf Of Shuan
Lo
Sent: 16 September 2009 20:22
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Need tips on how to formalize usability activities
in a big Internet business organization

Hi! I work in an e-commerce group. My department manager is interested
in building design research into our work processes from scratch. The
function of our department is a hybrid between product manager,
designer, and project manager.

We are looking into issues such as "do we need an official policy to
state that what kind of projects should always involve user testing",
"when business units come to us to build something, can we insist
that the concept be user tested first?"

Seems like we are trying to institutionalizing usability - to quote
the title of a book that I've not read.

If you work in an organization where usability and UCD is fairly
matured and formalized, could you share your experiences with me
please?

Thank you.

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22 Sep 2009 - 9:56am
Paul Bryan
2008

Your manager is definitely heading down the right path by implementing
standards for user research. However, I have seen some very large
companies try and fail to implement such standards. The two main
reasons I%u2019ve seen for failure have been: 1) The expense and time
are not warranted by the value received; and 2) the research method
was generic rather than specifically selected to match the problem or
opportunity.

To warrant user research, a project should be assessed for its
potential value to the company in terms of revenue and other
considerations such as brand reputation, and the percentage of that
value that is at risk if the design is not optimized through
research.

Selecting an appropriate research method is more involved than simply
putting each site in front of a handful of users. The research method
has to be capable of providing answers to specific design questions
unique to each initiative. (More on this at:
http://www.virtualfloorspace.com/?tag=research-methods). For example,
if the site has a high revenue potential, then it may be worth
conducting field research that models current customer behavior and
processes in order to design an innovative product, rather than
simply testing a prototype or design spec for usability problems.

Your process should be able to demonstrate value received for
resources expended, which shouldn%u2019t be too hard in e-commerce,
where numbers tell the story.

Paul Bryan
Usography (http://www.usography.com)
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

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