Usability in website and software design

Usability in Website and Software Design Website: http www. usabilityfirst. com/index. txl Foraker Designs; Foraker Design was foundedin 1999 by Stirling Olson a graduate from the Duke University School of Engineering in 1993. Throughout the 90’s, Stirling saw the need for a web development firm that was focused on user-centered design and value to its customers.
Brief Synopsis:
This web site provides relevant information about Usability; it’s actual relevance, discusses various methods of achieving high usability level, usability evaluation methods and the benefits of planning usability in the design of websites among other things.
Internal/ External Criticism:
According to the authors of this site, Usability addresses the relationship between tools and their users in order to improve efficiency and improve customer satisfaction. Usability shortens the time to accomplish tasks, reduce the number of mistakes made and reduces learning time. The site also lists various resources like books and other reference materials including various links pertaining to usability.
Usability evaluations can be conducted both during and after the design and through the development process. Evaluation can be divided into two broad categories:
I. those that gather data from actual users and
II. those that can be applied without actual users present.
It is of importance that while electing for a method, to calculate the cost not only in terms of time
and materials involved, but also in terms of the impact on the end-users, considering the possible cost of losing return visitors to your website due to unusable design. The site lists a Methods Section Overview which includes:
Cognitive Walkthrough is an approach to evaluating an interface based on breaking down and analyzing actions that a user must perform in order to use the system or perform a task.
Focus Groups gather groups of users to get their feedback, initial reactions to a design, and discuss their preferences. These groups are useful for raising issues that may not come out during interviews.
GOMS is a family of techniques for modelling and describing human task performance. GOMS is an acronym that stands for Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selection Rules.
Prototyping involves developing representations of a system for testing purposes and can range from simple sketches to almost fully functional systems.
Task Analysis evaluates how the end-user actually uses software or websites. An analyst determines the user goals and tasks, and then makes recommendations aimed at increasing efficiency and user-friendliness.
Usability Inspection reviews a system based on a set of usability guidelines. Experts familiar with issues of usability in design perform the usability inspection.
User Testing observes actual users interacting with software or websites. Users are asked to perform tasks while usability experts observe and take note of their actions.
This website provides adequate information on the importance of Usability; it is also provides good resource reference to other Usability literature and links. The site is interactive as can be noticed in its feed back option.
Title: Usability Evaluation
Website: http://www. usabilityhome. com/
Author: Unknown
This Web site was originally developed when the Author was a summer intern at the Human Factors group of US WEST, with the help of Pawan Vora.
Brief Synopsis:
According to this website there are three main ways to classify Usability evaluations. These methods are Testing, Inspection, and Inquiry. Each method is discussed under other sub methods giving a lot of relevant information on Usability evaluation.
Internal/ External Criticism.
The author described three main ways in classifying Usability evaluations. The site also provides other links like Usability Advisor: where recommendations for Usability methods can be obtained. Evaluation Costs: where financial costs of an evaluation can be compared and the In Development Life Cycle which shows how different Usability evaluation methods can be used at different stages of software development life-cycle. The Author describes also in great detail the other techniques used under the main methods to carryout Usability evaluations.

Some techniques used discussed include:
I. Testing Method: include the Coaching method which involves participants querying the coach and getting a response from the coach who is an expert. The purpose of this technique is to provide better training and documentation through the information needs of users.
Other techniques listed under the Testing Method are Co-discovery, Performance Measurement, Question Asking Protocol, Remote Testing, amongst others.
II. Inspection Method: using the Cognitive Walkthrough Technique, evaluator(s) inspect a fully developed or prototype user interface by going through a set of tasks and then evaluating its ease of learning and understandability. This technique is best used in the design stage of development. But it can also be applied during the code, test, and deployment stages. The Feature Inspection, Heuristic Evaluation, Pluralistic Walkthrough and the Perspective Based Inspection are also Inspection Method techniques used in usability evaluation.
III. The inquiry method involves obtaining information about users’ likes, dislikes, needs, and understanding of the system either by talking or observing them using the system in real work (not for the purpose of usability testing), or through questions and answers. Other Inquiry methods include: Field Observation, Focus Groups, Interviews, Logging Actual Use, Proactive Field Study, Questionnaires. Logging Actual Use involves having the computer automatically collect statistics about the detailed use of the system. It is useful because it shows how users perform their actual work and because it is easy to automatically collect data from a large number of users working under different circumstances.

Conclusion: The site uses a variety of links to discuss usability method evaluations, these methods and techniques are explained with great detail on this site. Also the site provides good links to resources like books. The language of the site is easy and uncomplicated to follow.