Column: Universal Usability

UXmatters has published 8 editions of the column Universal Usability.

Top 3 Trending Universal Usability Columns

  1. Why People Matter

    Universal Usability

    Putting people at the center of design

    A column by Whitney Quesenbery
    November 3, 2005

    This column, Universal Usability, will explore the social benefits of human-centered design and ways in which we can create better conversations that include more people.

    I’m writing this while listening to news reports and public discussion about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The thought that keeps running through my head is this: the real disaster was not the storm, but our response to it.

    The work of planning for crisis response may seem mundane. Long before a catastrophe, officials must prepare emergency and evacuation plans. To be ready for a disaster, they must make arrangements for essential needs like transportation, food, and shelter. This real-world, logistical planning is a lot less exciting than working on cutting-edge, high-tech systems like data mining for surveillance, but people’s lives depend on its being done well. Once a crisis occurs, officials must respond quickly, making and communicating the right decisions, organizing volunteers, and transporting supplies. And they need systems—both online and off—that help them do just that. We won’t know what really happened in the aftermath of Katrina for a while, but my guess is that people far from the daily reality of crisis response were seduced into thinking that technology could supply all the answers. Read More

  2. More Alike Than We Think

    Universal Usability

    Putting people at the center of design

    A column by Whitney Quesenbery
    March 20, 2006

    What happens when a site has to appeal to a wide range of people? How do you sort out their different usability requirements? Will they conflict, and if so, how do you prioritize them?

    Working on a new Web site to provide information about admission to The Open University (OU) in the UK, Ian Roddis, who is in charge of the OU Web strategy, issued a challenge: How can we make sure that the site will provide the right information in a format that will be useful and usable?

    Earlier user research and usability tests that Caroline Jarrett and I had done had shown that users were having trouble learning about the OU’s special form of distance education on the existing site. To solve this problem, we wanted to make recommendations for the style and format of the information as part of our design. Read More

  3. New Life for Product Documentation

    Universal Usability

    Putting people at the center of design

    A column by Whitney Quesenbery
    August 14, 2006

    Here are some “truths” we’ve all heard: “Documentation is just a band-aid for poor design.” “Real users don’t read manuals.” “Super users never read anything.” “Help doesn’t.”

    But are they really true? I’ve seen some signs of life in the use of documentation for digital products recently.

    “I need it when I do something new.”

    In a usability test of some small business financial software programs, we all froze when one participant reached for a fat manual. We were all wondering whether the rest of the session would be spent watching him read through the book, looking for an answer. Amazingly, it didn’t. Within a few minutes, he had found the answer and used it to successfully solve the problem he’d been stuck on. Read More

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