Expert evaluations – the discovery phase (Step 1)

in Usability testing

Expert evaluations should separate the discovery of usability problems from the analysis of these problems and subsequent thinking of solutions. It makes for clearer thinking.

The first phase, the discovery of  usability problems is a two step process:

  1. Getting a feel for the interface
  2. Inspecting the interface in detail.

I want to flesh out the first step a bit – getting a feel for the interface.

Imagine you’re evaluating a website. In the first step you put yourself in the mind of a user coming to the website for the first time.

“What can I do with this?”, is the users’ key question. Their underlying question is a hunt for value – how does this benefit me?

More specifically users will:

Anticipate hopes and fears

  • Before going to the website, what functionality and content will users be expecting?
  • What will their hopes and fears be?

Form first impressions

  • Will their first impressions match these expectations?
  • What else will they think when they look at the interface for the first time?

Orient to goals

  • What is the website all about – is the proposition clear?
  • Are there 3 or 4 clear calls to action that are obvious starting points?
  • Are these calls to action appropriate – tasks that users really need or want to do?

Interact opportunistically

  • Do the top level pages help users work out what it’s all about?
  • What happens if they play with interactive elements (e.g. videos, carousels, maps)?

These are questions that you can ask in the first pass of the interface. In subsequent phases you inspect the interface in more detail.


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