Usability = What Your Product Does

I started this series of posts with the goal of telling the story of my Innovation Design Model. It took some time to get the model to where it is today because there was so much noise that needed to be removed in order to create a cohesive, clear, and easy to use model. So far I’ve shared my notes on task analysis, circumstance analysis, gamification, information architecture, and interaction design. The list of design elements below consists of all the disciplines within the Innovation Design Model and describes the main focus of each discipline:

This post will focus on usability and its concern with what your product does. First lets look at the definition of usability. (Ua) Usability analysis determines your product’s usability standards and tests against those standards to determine the level of ease or difficulty of use. This definition tells product owners to first determine what the product will do as a standard. For example, as a standard the product will allow printing of all blog posts through the browser print functionality. Then the definition points towards testing for those standards of use to assure an acceptable level of usability. The following are some usability activities that will allow you to determine those usability standards and help in testing against them to determine if your product does what it is meant to do:

(Up) Usability planning requires that you establish your usability testing methods or activities to determine the usability of your product including an explicit explanation for what to do when using each method. Sometimes in practice your usability activities don’t work out as well as you expected and you may need to revise your plan–do so early in the process.

(Uh) Usability heuristics are a set of recognized usability principles that can be measured against a user interface. For example, the use of natural language that is accustomed by the user is an accepted principle that all user interfaces should comply with.

(Ut) User testing is conducted using a number of reliable, repeatable, valid methods or activities to ascertain the level of ease or difficulty in the specific use of interfaces and their functionality.

(Wa) Web accessibility is concerned with making Web environments accessible to people whose disabilities make it difficult to experience the Web. Generally it focuses on coding in such a way that users can use screen readers, keyboards, and transcripts to experience what they cannot see, hear, or navigate to with a mouse. It also includes designing in a way that allows people with cognitive disabilities to digest the information.

(Is) Interface standards and guidelines are instrumental in communicating what works to those who influence and affect the product design. Standards can include design elements such as page architecture in wireframe mode or color palette requirements. Guidelines can be statements that clearly communicate what should be done. For example, all pages must be printer-friendly.

The decision of what your product does begins with task analysis and is affected by every discipline as outlined below:

  1. Task Analysts conclude from their research that a particular user need is not satisfied properly and bring a product idea to the table with a general idea of what the product will do.
  2. Circumstance Analysts review the current circumstance and approve the idea as feasible.
  3. Gamification Analysts then look at the product idea and follow user activities, and connections to others, to identify feasible engagement strategies that would make the product successful.
  4. Information Architects follow the product concept from the user’s perspective to determine what it looks like;  that is, it has the appearance of the product.
  5. Interaction Designers create feelings of association between users and the product.
  6. And in usability, Usability Analysts create standards and guidelines that become what your product does as it is sent out into the market.

Usability completes the product cycle and begins the cycle of product improvement that will continue with usability planning, heuristics, user testing, Web accessibility, interface standards, and other current activities in your organization. So don’t forget usability!