Usability Testing Methods. Focus Groups. Heuristic Evaluation. Feature Inspection.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 09:47

In my previous article I told you about such usability testing methods as Self-reporting logs and Thinking aloud protocol. The last most popular methods are Focus groups, Heuristic evaluation and Feature inspection. Let’s consider them.

The method of focus groups consists of inquiry of specially selected user group. From 6 to 9 users are involved in research, which normally proceeds about 2 hours. The main advantage of focus groups is that they allow the identification of spontaneous reactions and ideas and evaluating of the attitude to these ideas of the group as a whole.

As a rule, group members perceive the event as a relatively unstructured free process, but the group leader should have the preliminary work scenario arising from the research objectives, and make sure that the group discussion did not come out of the problem context under discussion. In addition, it is necessary to achieve equal participation in the discussion of all group members. It happens quite often that a group has a leader, dominating over other participants. These situations hamper the free expression of thoughts and ideas of other team members and also need for correction.

Results of the focus group work are brought in the special protocol for further processing. Collecting of detailed information in this method is difficult because of the relative spontaneity of the group process, it is recommended to carry out several focus groups consisting of representative users.

Despite a row of advantages of focus groups, they also have their drawbacks. The main thing from them is the inaccuracy of estimation based on statements, thoughts and preferences of a small amount of users. Therefore, focus groups should only be used along with other methods.

Focus groups can be used both at any stage of application programming, and for an estimation of the ready product.

Heuristic evaluation is led by a team of 4 - 6 professionals in the field of expert evaluations of web production and mutual relations between the person and computer systems.

Their work is based on the correlation of application quality with specially formulated heuristic principles. Each of the experimenters carefully studies the application, working in isolation from other members of the group and fixing the results in writing. This is necessary in order to ensure the independence of evaluation of each of the experimenters. Next, a group discussion of the data is led and a collective decision is produced. The results of the group are summed up by the leader of the study. The method can be applied both at development of an application mockup, and at late stages of its manufacture, and also at the analysis of the ready product.

For more details look heuristic evaluation.

Feature Inspection

Feature inspection is intended for the analysis of a specific feature set of application, with which the user interacts for ultimate goal achievement. For example, by operation with a search system for result achievement, it is necessary for user to type the URL of this system, to make request, being guided by language of requests, which are used by the system, or to use the rubricator if that is available, etc.

The method assumes an estimation of availability and functionality of each of these steps to a task execution context. For this purpose, define their sequence and answer following questions: whether the user can implement a specific step without special complexities; whether transition from one step to another is logical; whether it is easy to define, to what step it is necessary to pass at each stage of task performance; whether these or those functions are well designated and issued, etc. Feature inspection is applied in the middle of application programming, when the feature is set and sequences of their applications are already defined.

Next time we’ll talk about Jakob Nielsen’s "Ten Usability Heuristics".


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