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Chapter 2. Web Usability Strategy > The Userview Process

The Userview Process

The contextual approach to Web design is concerned mainly with how successively larger, more encompassing contexts relate to each other and to design objects. Within any given context, we need a systematic strategy that allows us to specify design solutions. That strategy is grounded in the human-centered approach (Norman, 1986) to designing usable interactive systems. The general methodology consists of a sequence of tasks that a designer performs in defining the Web user interface and implementing site usability. It also involves iterative modifications and compromises. The process derives from the following set of accepted usability design principles of practice (Gould, 1988; Whiteside et al., 1988).

User-centered approach. Defining the user culture—including user characteristics and types, a user level of expertise, and user task descriptions—is a prerequisite to Web interface development and testing. Methods for user-centered designs range from user interviews and observations to videotaping users as they work and administering attitude and information surveys.

Early human factors input. Consideration should be given to the human factors and user interface design guidelines very early in the process. Usability guidelines come from three sources: results from experimental human behavior research, accepted conventions of practice, and consensus of experts. It is easier and less costly to introduce human factors and user interface design constraints in the early stages of development.

Iterative design. The iterative design process for developing Web interfaces (see Figure 2.3) stems from the knowledge that “first designs,” no matter how well founded in experience and background, contain unanticipated flaws. Iterative interface designers start by profiling the audience and performing task analysis. Developing and implementing a prototype of the design, based on guidelines, prin ciples, and examples, follows. Depending on the environment, the prototype is presented to the user for testing and feedback. During subsequent testing rounds, the interface is refined and changed according to the results of the analyses.

Figure 2.3. The iterative development cycle

Continuous testing. Usability evaluation should begin very early in Web site development and continue throughout the process. In the early phases, testing involves focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires. This stage is followed by storyboard paper designs, simulations, and prototypes. In later stages, usability evaluations involve lab tests, field testing, and sequential data analysis.

Integrated design. Certain questions need to be considered simultaneously at the very start of the process and on a continuing basis because of their interdependency in formulating a cohesive usability design. Designers should focus initially and concurrently on the following questions: (1) What functions does the user need to perform the tasks? (2) How should the user be allowed to invoke those functions? (3) How should we tell the user how to invoke the functions?



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