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Column: Practical Usability

UXmatters has published 70 editions of the column Practical Usability.

Top 3 Trending Practical Usability Columns

  1. The Role of Observation in User Research

    Practical Usability

    Moving toward a more usable world

    A column by Jim Ross
    September 10, 2018

    User research consists of two core activities: observing and interviewing. Since we’re most interested in people’s behavior, observing is the most important of these activities because it provides the most accurate information about people, their tasks, and their needs.

    While interviewing is also very important, the information people provide during interviews isn’t always accurate or reliable. Often, research participants don’t know why they do things, what they really need, what they might do in the future, or how a design could be improved. To really understand what people do, you can’t just ask them, you have to observe them.

    But exactly what is observation, and what does it entail? Though we all know what the word observation means and everyone knows how to look and listen, there is more to it than just pointing your eyes in a particular direction, listening, and taking notes. By doing a little research, I found many books and articles about interviewing, but surprisingly few about how to observe research participants. So, in this column, I’ll first explore what observation is and the different types of observation methods, then focus on one particularly useful, yet underused UX research method: naturalistic observation. Read More

  2. Conducting Qualitative, Comparative Usability Testing

    Practical Usability

    Moving toward a more usable world

    A column by Jim Ross
    March 6, 2017

    Although UX designers usually consider various different design directions early during projects, they typically choose one design to develop further—long before conducting the first usability test. However, testing multiple designs early in a project can provide much more useful information than testing just a single design solution. When participants can experience two or more designs during testing, they can provide better feedback. As a result, you can gain greater insight into the elements of each design that work well and those that cause problems.

    What Is Qualitative, Comparative Usability Testing?

    When you read the term comparative usability testing, you might think it refers only to benchmarking the usability of an existing user interface against that of its competitors. In this type of comparative usability testing, you’d compare existing user interfaces with each other, using quantitative metrics such as task-completion and error rates and time on task. Therefore, participants perform test tasks without interruption and do not think aloud. You might also compare participants’ responses to a questionnaire. Read More

  3. Qualities of Effective User Researchers

    Practical Usability

    Moving toward a more usable world

    A column by Jim Ross
    November 6, 2017

    Perhaps you’re thinking about a career specializing in user research. Perhaps you’re looking to hire a user researcher. Or perhaps you manage or work with user researchers. If so, you might be thinking about what qualities lead a person to succeed in user research. While others have written about this topic—notably Demetrius Madrigal and Bryan McClain in a 2010 column on UXmatters—I want to add my own perspective based on what I’ve observed specializing in user research over the past 17 years.

    The following list of characteristics may seem daunting, but you don’t have to be a perfect ten in all of them. There are certainly areas in which I have strengths and weaknesses. We all have room for improvement. But the more of these qualities you possess, the more well suited you are for a career in user research. In this column, when I refer to a user researcher, I mean both user-research specialists and generalists who do both user research and design. Read More

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