Blogs

Who would toil away for pennies, completing trivial tasks and answering surveys? A quarter-million users registered with Amazon's Mechanical Turk service.  Just who exactly are the people behind the Mechanical Turk and can we rely on the data we get from the nameless faceless masses ?  In this blog posted on Oracle.com I review two recent studies published and presented at CHI 2010. In one

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If you have an iPhone, you probably love it like I do. You probably also use it a lot like I do. The features and apps and, of course, the user interface make using the iPhone a rich and rewarding experience.  Where I once had to wait till I got to my computer to send an email, Google something or get directions from my location,

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Usability tests are conducted on samples of users taken from a larger user population. In usability testing it is hard enough to recruit and test users let alone select them randomly from the larger user population. Samples in usability studies are almost always convenience samples. That is, we rely on volunteers to participate in our test (a convenience to us). Volunteers, even paid volunteers, are

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How long does it take users to complete a task? We really don't know. Instead we have to take our best guess from a sample of users. But if you had to pick a single number to summarize how long it would take typical users to complete a task from a usability test what would you report?  The mean? The median? The mode? Something else?

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A user-interface problem is anything in the code or design that inhibits a user from completing an intended action. Usability testing is best done in the formative stages of development to find these UI problems and generate quantifiably better designs. Usability testing also has a summative role at the end of development as validation when bugs and functional gaps have been addressed.  Most UI problems

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While it might seem like having users think aloud while they complete a task will increase the time on task—the literature is actually mixed. Some studies report no difference, some show longer task times for thinking aloud and others report faster task times for thinking aloud. It has been hypothesized that the reason users can perform faster while they think aloud is because this vocalization

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While testing with five users might reveal 85% of problems that impact 31% of users (given a set of tasks and user-type), it doesn't mean you're finding 85% of the critical problems.  Are severe usability problems likely to occur more frequently, less frequently or is problem severity independent of frequency? The data on this is mixed. The paper from Bob Virzi in 1992 showed there

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I'm always gathering and looking at data. One consequence of this is having to reconcile conflicting data-points—say data from users who express different perspectives on an issue. For example, one of my articles was recently tweeted with the note:  "any website with the name usability in it should let you know you're clicking on a PDF." Few things slow the web-browsing experience down more than

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