Userbility Testing

In a recent s1419225895usability_testingeminar we learnt about usability testing and thought of possible questions to test the usability of an interactive piece example. Usability testing is when you test/evaluate a product with its aimed audience. It is important that I usability text my piece with the target audience as it will allow me to see its suitability and fitness for purpose. As well as allowing me to find out how users behave with the piece and what they experience from it (UX). Kuniavsky (2003, p.18) claims that

‘A good user experience doesn’t guarantee success, but a bad one is nearly always a quick route to failure.’

This shows the importance of carrying out usability tests, as without a satisfied audience my piece would be unsuccessful. He also suggests:

‘What makes a good experience varies from person to person, product to product, and task to task, but a good general definition is to define something as “usable” if it’s functional, efficient, and desirable to its intended audience.’

Carrying out usability tests will allow me to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to determine whether my piece is desirable to its intended audience. Quantitative data is that which deals with numbers, it can be measured and easily analysed and made into graphs/chart. An example of a quantitative question could be ‘Did you understand how to use the piece?’, the responses from this would simply be yes/no, hence allowing you to easily measure/analyse user responses. Qualitative data is that which is more descriptive, giving you individuals own personal opinions and views on the piece. An example of a qualitative question could be ‘Discuss what you like about the piece?’, hence giving you more detailed, quality answers. Quantitative questions are normally used when testing a big group of people as they could be good in order to find out who to target, however the responses aren’t usually very accurate and aren’t detailed enough for you to gain ideas on how to improve the piece and hence follow an iterative design process. Therefore, for my piece it would be best to use qualitative question when carrying out usability tests as it will allow me get more descriptive, useful answers as well as gain more feedback and improvements that I could possibly make. I need to ensure that I word the questions in the correct way in order to get qualitative responses from users as sometimes they can give yes/no responses which wouldn’t be as useful, therefore to do this I could use ‘discuss’/’explain’ in the question which encourages them to give a longer answer. From this, I have learnt a lot more about usability testing and quantitative/qualitative data. It will benefit my piece and means I will follow an iterative design process. Next, I will go on to create a prototype for my piece and test it with the aimed audiences.

Kuniavsky, M, 2003. Observing the User Experience : A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research [online]. Burlington, MA, USA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Prototyping

prototyping2A prototype can be described as 

‘An original type, form, or instance serving as a basis or standard for later stages’ (The Free Dictionary, 2014).

Creating a prototype relates to the iterative design process as it allows you to gain feedback and then make refinements and improvements. It is a stage where you can engage with the users and analyse whether the piece is easy to understand, engaging, suitable and whether or not it is successful or not. It is a useful tool in order to evaluate user experience and can be very beneficial in order to produce a successful final piece. Beaudouin-Lafon and Mackay suggest that 

‘Prototypes both inform the design process and help designers select the best solution’.

They propose four ways in which to analyse prototypes:

  1. Representation (form of prototype eg. paper/computer, offline/online)
  2. Precision (level of detail eg. formal/rough)
  3. Interactivity (how user can engage with prototype)
  4. Evolution (life cycle of prototype eg. iterative/throw away)

I feel that creating a prototype for my piece would be beneficial as it would allow me to fully show my ideas and directly engage with the users, hence following an iterative design process. As I don’t have enough knowledge of processing yet to create a rough programmed piece, I feel that creating a rough paper prototype could be suitable. Here is an example of a website usability test using a paper prototype:

As you can see, a paper type is just as beneficial and in this case it has allowed the designer to understand more about the users and how they would understand and experience the website. This example has also highlighted to me the importance of properly testing the prototype, and as Bramhall (2014) says

‘Testing a prototype is equally as important as prototyping a design in the first place.’

When testing a prototype, I should ensure that I engage with the target audience and ask suitable questions in order to help me improve and make my piece a good interactive experience for its users.

Beaudouin-Lafon, M and Mackay, W.E, 2014. Prototyping Tools and Techniques [online]. Available from: https://www.lri.fr/~mackay/pdffiles/Prototype.chapter.pdf [Accessed 23 October 2014].

BlueDuckLabs, 2010. Example Usability Test With A Paper Prototype. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wQkLthhHKA [Accessed 23 October 2014].

Bramhall, D, 2014. The Importance of Prototyping Your Designs. Creative Blog. 20 August 2014. Available from: http://www.creativebloq.com/netmag/importance-prototyping-your-designs-81412694  [Accessed 23 October 2014].

Rough Poster Design

A mini project we have been set is to produce a group poster promoting Independent Dorset. It was important that we first carried out research about Dorset and Independence, of which we found that Dorset was a relaxing, coastal and agricultural county. We researched existing Independence campaigns, Scottish Independence being the main one, in order to gain ideas and influences. Next we went on to draw out some designs…

20141011_171404

Our ‘Keep Calm and Free Dorset’ Poster was inspired by the iconic ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ campaign posters, of which I am exploring for my Media and History Essay. Specifically, I am analysing propaganUntitledda within advertisements and thUntitled1e strong importance of exploring media and design history. This design in particular highlights how historical designs can still have huge influences on the contemporary. The original was in fact designed in 1939 to boost the morale of the public at the time of the Second World War, yet the design still remains highly popular with various remakes an adaptations being made, Made in Chelsea’s logo being just one of many examples. However, we felt that if we were to go with this idea it would work best as a campaign of multiple poster rather than just the one. Therefore, we decided to go with our other design – ‘Homes for Homeless’.

We followed the iterative design process and showed our design to our peers in order to gain feedback to improve our design. The feedback we got was that the tagline could be seen as offensive and is targeted at the homeless. Therefore, we came up with a few different tagline ideas – ‘Dorset For Dorset. Not the Tourists’ and ‘Support Dorset Independence’. We also got feedback about the world map, peers felt that Dorset didn’t stand out that much due to it being at the bottom of the page. Therefore, we have decided to only include the bottom half of the UK and shift it up to the centre of the page. It was important to engage with peers as it allowed us to improve our poster and make it more suitable and eye catching. Next, we will go on to produce our computer designs for the poster.

Anon,1939. Keep Calm And Carry On [poster]. UK: WarTimePosters. Available from: http://www.wartimeposters.co.uk/ [Accessed 27 October 2014].

Made in Chelsea, 2014. [Television Program]. UK: Monkey Kingdom Productions. E4: 21:00.

Design Iterations

For this unit it is important that I follow an iterative design process when producing my work. An iterative design process is a methodological approach of developing and refining a design based on constant feedback and evaluation. By following this process, the feedback and design refinement will help improve my work and enable me to get constant user feedback. By understanding what the iterative design process actually is, I will ensure that throughout my blog I follow the process through a series of analysis, design and implementation life cycles.

‘Theo Mandel promotes an iterative interface design process that involves users and focuses on prototyping and testing designs from early stages through final product development. This diagram (from Dr. Mandel’s book, The Element Of User Interface Design) highlights how users are central to interface design and usability. Users should be designed for and with, not designed to” (Mandel 2013).

methodology_ill

I think that his idea that ‘users should be designed for and with, not designed to’ is very important. Before producing my interactive piece, I will ensure I observe and gather information about the users and analyse how I can successfully get them to engage with my piece. I am going to refer back to this diagram throughout the unit to ensure I follow an iterative design process and to ensure I am constantly involving the users within the different design stages. The four iterative design stages that I am going to follow throughout this unit are:

  1. Requirements Gathering
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Implementation and Testing

Ang (1991, p.105) also believes that:

‘the audience’s role should not be limited to that of (responsive) viewers; they should also be active participants in the production …’

I feel that this is important and throughout the production of my work, I will ensure I engage the audience in order to help me make decisions about my piece as well as for feedback and improvements. This idea of audiences becoming more active is something I will go on to explore further in following posts.

Ang, I, 1991. Desperately Seeking the Audience [online]. London and New York: Routledge

Mandel, T, 2013. Prototyping and Design [online]. Arizona: Theo Mandel. Available from: http://theomandel.com/services/ux-prototyping-design/ [Accessed 2 October 2014].