The 3 phases of expert usability evaluations

in Usability testing

We’ve all tried watching the TV while speaking to someone on the phone. What happens? You miss half of what’s being said. We’re just not good at doing some tasks in parallel.

I’ve seen comparable problems watching some usability teams doing expert usability evaluations. They try to find problems, analyse them, and fix them – all at the same time. In this article, you’ll learn the right way to do an expert evaluation.

Do these 3 phases in their proper order:

  1. Discover the problems
  2. Analyse the problems
  3. Develop solutions

1. Discover the problems

Discovering usability problems should be a free and open process. Make a first pass through the design to get a feel for the flow. Then make a second more detailed inspection and record any problems that you encounter. Don’t be judgemental. Write down anything that you think might be a problem.

2. Analyse the problems

The key things you should do during the analysis phase are:

  • Ditch some problems from step 1 – those that aren’t really problems
  • Group problems into related categories
  • Abstract over problems to find key themes
  • Prioritise the problems in terms of their severity

3. Develop solutions

Only once you’ve understood the usability problems in the interface should you start developing solutions. Again, this should be free and open to start with: write down as many solutions you can think of. Then judge the solutions for their quality.

So don’t muddle your thinking: do one thing at a time and do it well.

I’ll be fleshing out these three phases in later articles.

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