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Juristo Usability LIDO

Juristo Usability LIDO

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Published by: EltonRVieira on May 10, 2010
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January/February 2001
0740-7459/00/$10.00 © 2001 IEEE
Contrary to what some might think, us-ability is not just the appearance of the userinterface (UI). Usability relates to how thesystem interacts with the user, and it includesfive basic attributes: learnability, efficiency,user retention over time, error rate, and sat-isfaction. Here, we present the general us-ability process for building a system with thedesired level of usability. This process, whichmost usability practitioners apply with slightvariation, is structured around a design-evaluate-redesign cycle. Practitioners initiatethe process by analyzing the targeted usersand the tasks those users will perform.
Clarifying usability concepts
According to ISO 9241, Part 11, usabilityis “the extent to which a product can be usedby specified users to achieve specified goalswith effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfactionin a specified context of use.”
This definitionties a system’s usability to specific conditions,needs, and users—it requires establishing cer-tain levels of usability based on the five basicattributes.
Usability engineering 
defines the target us-ability level in advance and ensures that thesoftware developed reaches that level. Theterm was coined to reflect the engineering ap-proach some usability specialists take.
It is“a process through which usability character-istics are specified, quantitatively and early inthe development process, and measuredthroughout the process.”
Usability is an is-sue we can approach from multiple view-points, which is why many different disci-plines, such as psychology, computer science,and sociology, are trying to tackle it. Unfor-tunately, this results in a lack of standard ter-minology. In fact, the term usability engineer-ing is not universally accepted—other termsused include usage-centered design, contex-tual design, participatory design, and goal-directed design. All these philosophies adhereto some extent to the core issue of usabilityengineering: evaluating usability with realusers from the first stages of development.
Usability attributes
We can’t define usability as a specific as-
Usability Basics forSoftware Developers
Xavier Ferré and Natalia Juristo,
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid 
Helmut Windl,
Siemens AG, Germany
Larry Constantine,
Constantine & Lockwood 
This tutorialexamines therelationshipbetween usabilityand the userinterface anddiscusses howthe usabilityprocess follows adesign-evaluate-redesigncycle. It alsodiscusses somemanagementissues anorganizationmust face whenapplying usabilitytechniques.
n recent years, software system usability has made some interesting ad-vances, with more and more organizations starting to take usability seri-ously.
Unfortunately, the average developer has not adopted these newconcepts, so the usability level of software products has not improved.
usability engineering
Authorized licensed use limited to: Universidad Federal de Pernambuco. Downloaded on October 13, 2008 at 11:07 from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
pect of a system. It differs depending on theintended use of the system under develop-ment. For example, a museum kiosk must runa software system that requires minimumtraining, as the majority of users will use itjust once in their lifetime. Some aspects of us-ability—such as efficiency (the number of tasks per hour)—are irrelevant for this kindof system, but ease of learning is critical.However, a bank cashier’s system would re-quire training and would need to be highly ef-ficient to help reduce customer queuing time.Because usability is too abstract a term tostudy directly, it isusually divided into theattributes we mentioned at the beginning of the article:
: How easy it is to learn themain system functionality and gain pro-ficiency to complete the job. We usuallyassess this by measuring the time a userspends working with the system beforethat user can complete certain tasks inthe time it would take an expert to com-plete the same tasks. This attribute isvery important for novice users.
: The number of tasks per unitof time that the user can perform usingthe system. We look for the maximumspeed of user task performance. Thehigher system usability is, the faster theuser can perform the task and completethe job.
User retention over time
: It is critical forintermittent users to be able to use thesystem without having to climb the learn-ing curve again. This attribute reflectshow well the user remembers how thesystem works after a period of nonusage.
Error rate
: This attribute contributes neg-atively to usability. It does not refer to sys-tem errors. On the contrary, it addressesthe number of errors the user makes whileperforming a task. Good usability impliesa low error rate. Errors reduce efficiencyand user satisfaction, and they can beseen as a failure to communicate to theuser the right way of doing things.
: This shows a user’s subjec-tive impression of the system.One problem concerning usability is thatthese attributes sometimes conflict. For ex-ample, learnability and efficiency usually in-fluence each other negatively. A system mustbe carefully designed if it requires both highlearnability and high efficiency—for exam-ple, using accelerators (a combination of keysto perform a frequent task) usually solves thisconflict. The point is that a system’s usabilityis not merely the sum of these attributes’ val-ues; it is defined as reaching a certain level foreach attribute.We can further divide these attributes toprecisely address the aspects of usability inwhich we are most interested. For example,
 performance in normal use
advanced feature usage
are both subattributes of effi-ciency, and
first impression
is a subattributeof satisfaction. Therefore, when analyzing aparticular system’s usability, we decomposethe most important usability attributesdown to the right detail level.Usability is not only concerned with soft-ware interaction. It is also concerned withhelp features, user documentation, and in-stallation instructions.
Usability and the user interface
We distinguish between the visible part of the UI (buttons, pull-down menus, check-boxes, background color, and so forth) andthe interaction part of the system to under-stand the depth and scope of a system’s us-ability. (By interaction, we mean the coordi-nation of the information exchange betweenthe user and the system.) It’s important tocarefully consider the interaction not justwhen designing the visible part of the UI, butalso when designing the rest of the system.For example, if a system must providecontinuous feedback to the user, the devel-opers need to consider this when designingthe time-consuming system operations.They should design the system so it can fre-quently send information to the UI to keepthe user informed about the operation’s cur-rent status. The system could display this in-formation as a percentage-completed bar, asin some software installation programs.Unfortunately, it is not unusual to find de-velopment teams that think they can designthe system and then have the “usability team”make it usable by designing a nice set of con-trols, adding the right color combination, andusing the right font. This approach is clearlywrong. Developers must consider user inter-action from the beginning of the developmentprocess. Their understanding of the interac-tion will affect the final product’s usability.
It’s importantto carefullyconsider theinteractionnot just whendesigningthe visiblepart of theuser interface,but also whendesigning therest of thesystem.
Authorized licensed use limited to: Universidad Federal de Pernambuco. Downloaded on October 13, 2008 at 11:07 from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.
Usability in software development
The main reason for applying usabilitytechniques when developing a software sys-tem is to increase user efficiency and satis-faction and, consequently, productivity.Us-ability techniques, therefore, can help anysoftware system reach its goal by helping theusers perform their tasks. Furthermore, goodusability is gaining importance in a world inwhich users are less computer literate andcan’t afford to spend a long time learninghow a system works. Usability is critical foruser system acceptance: If users don’t thinkthe system will help them perform their tasks,they are less likely to accept it. It’s possiblethey won’t use the system at all or will use itinefficiently after deployment. If we don’tproperly support the user task, we are notmeeting user needs and are missing the mainobjective of building a software system.For a software development organizationoperating in a competitive market, failure toaddress usability can lead to a loss of marketshare should a competitor release a productwith higher usability. Also, a software prod-uct with better usability will result in re-duced support costs (in terms of hotlines,customer support service, and so forth).Even if a system is being used, it does notnecessarily mean it has a high level of us-ability. There are other aspects of a softwareproduct that condition its usage, such asprice, possibility of choice, or previoustraining. In addition, because users are stillmore intelligent than computers, it is usu-ally the human who adapts to the computerin human–computer interaction. However,we shouldn’t force the user to adapt to soft-ware with poor usability, because this adap-tation can negatively influence efficiency, ef-fectiveness, and satisfaction. Usability is akey aspect of a software product’s success.
The usability process
As we mentioned, a system’s usability de-pends on the interaction design. Therefore,we must deal with system usability through-out the entire development process. Usabil-ity testing alone is not enough to output ahighly usable product, because usability test-ing uncovers but does not fix design prob-lems. Furthermore, usability testing has beenviewed as similar to other types of softwarequality assurance testing, so developers of-ten apply the techniques late in the develop-ment cycle—when major usability problemsare very costly, if not impossible, to fix.Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate all resultsduring the product development process,which ultimately leads to an iterative devel-opment process. A pure waterfall approachto software development makes introducingusability techniques fairly impossible.All software applications are tools thathelp users accomplish certain tasks. However,before we can build usable software tools—or, rather, design a UI—we need informationabout the people who will use the tool:
Who are the system users?
What will they need to accomplish?
What will they need from the system toaccomplish this?
How should the system supply whatthey need?The usability process helps user interac-tion designers answer these questions dur-ing the analysis phase and supports the de-sign in the design phase (see Figure 1).There are many usability methods—allessentially based on the same usabilityprocess—so we have abstracted a generic us-ability process from the different approachesto usability mentioned earlier. We hope thismakes it easier for the reader to understandthe different usability techniques we will bedescribing.
Usability analysis phase
First, we have to get to know the users andtheir needs, expectations, interests, behav-iors, and responsibilities, all of which charac-terize their relationship with the system.
User analysis.
There are numerous ap-proaches for gathering information aboutusers, depending on each individual systemunder development and the effort or timeconstraints for this phase. The main meth-ods are
site visits
focus groups
derived data
.The primary source for user informationis site visits. Developers observe the users intheir working environment, using the sys-tem to be replaced or performing their tasksmanually if there is no existing tool. In ad-dition, developers interview the users to un-derstand their motivation and the strategybehind their actions. A well-known method
Usability testingalone is notenough tooutput a highlyusable product,because ituncovers butdoes not fixdesignproblems.
January/February 2001
Authorized licensed use limited to: Universidad Federal de Pernambuco. Downloaded on October 13, 2008 at 11:07 from IEEE Xplore. Restrictions apply.

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