Formal Web Usability Inspections
Testing Your Web Projects with "Real Users"
Formal Web usability inspection is a method that -formalizes the review
of a specification or early prototype. A team of Usability Inspectors
conducts the inspection. Their responsibilities include inspecting the
design, discovering defects and logging them in a form, convening a meeting
to discuss the findings and assigning the job of rectifying the defects
to responsible individuals.
This technique also provided quantitative measurements that could be
tracked using, statistical process control methods. Code inspections were
also adapted, to check and track documentation defects, and usability
defects were a logical next step.
The Proccedure Of Formal Web Usability Inspection
This method formalizes the review of a specification or early prototype.
The basic steps are to assemble a team of four to eight inspectors, assign
each of them a special role in the context of the inspection, distribute
the design documents to be inspected along with, instructions. Have the
inspectors go off on their own, to do their inspection, and convene later
in a formal inspection meeting. Defects found are assigned to responsible
parties to be fixed, and the cycle continues.
Assemble the team. Pick a team of interested people, that is, people
who have a stake in making the web design, more usable. This usually includes
engineers from the development, design, quality assurance, documentation,
and technical support groups. Each person brings a diverse viewpoint about
the design, and the potential to discover web usability defects is greater,
with a diverse team.
Assign roles. The formal web usability inspection methodology borrows
the inspection roles concept from code inspections. Each person on the
team, besides having to inspect the design, has a role to play during
the formal meeting. These roles are the following:
Moderator: Runs the meeting. Distributes and collects
any materials needed. Schedules meetings, and coordinates defect assignment.
Owner: Designer of the web site to be inspected is usually
the person, to whom the defects are assigned.
Recorder (sometimes called Scribe): Logs defects during the formal meeting.
Inspectors: Rest of the team members inspect the web
design and report any defects found. Everyone can play the role of an
inspector, regardless of their other role.
Distribute documents. For source code inspections, the
document would be- a source code listing with line numbers plus instructions
on what to look for--bad choice of tags, deprecated tags, appropriate
nesting of tags, etc. For web usability inspections, this includes- descriptions
of the site, including screen mockups if any, user profiles, typical user
tasks, heuristics to use, and a defect logging form.
Inspect the web design. The inspectors work alone, through the web design
and log the defects they find, on the form provided. Having a form, with
an agreed-upon format for logging helps later, during the formal meeting
when, the defects are discussed with the other inspectors. Each inspector
assumes the role of a specific user from the user profile, and walks through
the tasks of a particular scenario. Prior to inspection, each inspector
should review the web heuristics, and keep them in mind during their solo
Sometimes the form can be adapted, to incorporate the heuristics as a
checklist. Defects are logged according to the task the inspector was
trying to execute and the location of the defect. With code inspections,
a line number locates the defect--however, line numbers aren't usually
present in interfaces. Defect location can be given as the screen and
field or control name, or by the command and option attempted.
Hold a formal meeting. During the meeting, the moderator walks the team
through each task/scenario as a group. Inspectors chime in at each step
with the defects they found during their own inspection. Often, a lot
of new defects are found as the inspectors discuss each defect--different
aspects one inspector might not have thought of are brought up during
the meeting. Everybody agrees on the recorders logging of the defect this
formal log will be tracked later.
Inspectors might be tempted to think up solutions during the meeting,
or the owner might take umbrage at the pronounced defects and protest
each entry. These delays make the meeting run less smoothly and hurt the
method's chance of success. Part of the mediator's role is to reduce these
distractions so the defects can be aggregated and logged. There'll be
plenty of time to fix them later.
Prioritize and fix the defects. Defects logged during the meeting are
assigned to responsible persons to be fixed. The moderator often coordinates
this effort, tracking fixed and open defects, and arranging solution-brainstorming
meetings if necessary.
Benefits Of Formal Web Usability Inspections
There is no substitute for seeing your customers actually using your
design, and finding out where the design needs to be improved.Usability
testing not only evaluate the use of the website, they also improve the
process of iterative design. Frequent use of a usability test can establish
a quick and easy way for designers to test the use of their product, and
this forms the underlying goal of usability testing. Formal Usability
Testing focuses on the actual behavior of subjects engaged in realistic
interaction with a site. We look at what they do and listen to what they
say. It's an extremely honest and direct method for exposing the strengths
and weaknesses of an interface.
When Should You Use Formal Web Usability Inspections?
Since the inspectors can work with merely a specification or paper mockups,
the technique lends itself well to early stages of development.
Like other inspection methods, this usability testing is designed to
reduce the time required to discover defects in a tight web development
life cycle. Formal web usability inspections include, aspects of other
inspection methods too. Web Heuristics are used, to help non-usability
professionals find usability defects. Inspectors, walk through tasks with
the user's goals and purpose in mind, similar to cognitive walk-through,
although the emphasis is less on cognitive theory and more on encountering
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