Dec 2005 Contents
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World Usability Day in Scotland
Chris Rourke is Managing Director of User Vision, based in Edinburgh and President of the Scottish UPA. His background is in human factors and he has worked on a wide variety of projects on web, product design and software usability.
The Scottish chapter of the UPA (SUPA) is one of the newest in the worldwide network, having formed only about a year ago. We have had enthusiastic support from a core group of UPA members and non members attending our monthly meetings but recognised the need to get the word out to a wider audience and show them what good usability can offer. World Usability Day provided the perfect opportunity.
We decided that the best way to tell Scotland about usability was to:
The events started with a well attended 'hands on' session at the offices of User Vision. The "Usability Obstacle Course" was attended by about 60 visitors, each of whom was given a guide to the activities and a score sheet for rating their own success and rating of difficulty on a series of usability challenges that awaited then throughout the building.
The "obstacles" were designed to reveal the design features
that can make or break the user experience, and everyone had a chance
to see if they could succeed in the tasks such as:
Some of the results are worth noting:
Many Eyes on Usability Testing - and Ears on Accessibility
On one side of a one-way mirror in User Vision's Usability test lab, a test subject worked through tasks and described his or her impressions to a User Vision consultant, whilst on the other side up to a dozen observers were riveted by the user's every move and comment.
There were some moments of teeth-gnashing frustration from the observers, who thought they could see what would be the most logical next step, which often was not seen by the test subject. The value of usability testing was clearly demonstrated, and the subject's comments and actions clearly showed up some issues in the sites tested.
In User Vision's focus group room a demonstration of screen readers used by blind and partially sighted web users was a compelling introduction to web accessibility. Many visitors took the opportunity to 'hear' their sites as a blind user would, whilst User Vision consultants explained the accessibility features or shortcomings. Certainly the importance of creating accessible sites was highlighted after getting an insight into how many disabled people use the web.
More From the Day
Scottish Usability Showcase
Over sixty people attended the free event which was a series of short 15-minute case studies of usability success. Six speakers from a variety of organisations shared their experience of performing activities to improve the usability of their product, software, mobile device or websites. The highly visual presentation included:
All of these talks showed the breadth of usability, the variety of platforms where it can be applied, and most importantly, the benefits to the end users and the organisations involved. Again the audience went away enthused with the benefits that usability can deliver.
The two events certainly planted the seeds for greater awareness of usability
across Scotland and greater attendance at future Scottish UPA events.
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