“Well, whats the point?” my boss asked me, one late afternoon. After finding out I’m studying usability in grad school at the University of Guelph, he wanted to know what it is and what its place was in software design. He wasn’t saying this to discredit usability, he just couldn’t understand the value for a small company like his own whose software has few end users and is created on a tight budget. I’m glad nForm(http://canux.nform.ca) gave me the opportunity to write about this because it’s a topic I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while.
A common theme I’ve encountered when discussing usability, especially in our current economic climate, is how much effort can you put into usability and the user experience (if any) before starting to see diminishing returns. Jakob Nielsen said testing with any more than 5 users just doesn’t produce any value. The truth is a lot of companies ignore usability all together thinking that testing is too expensive. But even on a tight budget, some sort of usability is feasible. For example the W3C has come out with WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) for developing accessible websites, and using them is free; and as Shawn Henry stated onUXPod, making a website more accessible tends to make it more usable.
I understand that usability testing CAN be expensive, but there are SO MANY testing and evaluation methods out there that it really doesn’t have to be! And heightening the user experience can make all the difference in the world, from user efficiency to just a downright warm and fuzzy feeling. However, I get the sense from so many people that I talk to that usability testing is just too expensive, and I really want to change their minds. That’s why for my Masters research and thesis, I am looking into getting lots of value out of usability testing for little cost. More specifically, I am looking into techniques for the analysis of web server logfiles for extracting usability information- something that can be done for low cost or free (less time, less money, and fewer UX professionals).
I really want to change peoples’ minds on the cost of usability, but I’m only just starting my career. Coming to Canux 09 to me would mean learning more about usability and the user experience, which is a field I have a passion for; it means learning more feasible ways to create a great user experience and how to convince people of its value; and it would mean discussing my ideas of more feasible usability testing with the most brilliant minds in the field.
I would love to attend Canux 09- it would provide such great value for me as a student just starting my career, and I have so much to share with (and learn from) other UX professionals!
Please! Fly me to Canux!
MSc. Applied Computing
Department of Computer and Information Science
University of Guelph