Usability Assessment Methods beyond Testing

This chapter discusses usability assessment methods such as observation, questionaries and interviews, focus groups, and logging actual use. Professionally, I have conducted interviews and interpreted survey data, as well as helped to lead  focus groups.

I have found that questionnaire/ survey questions are very difficult to craft so that the data collected from them is truly meaningful. For example, I have seen many surveys where one can answer questions on a scale from “strongly agree” – “agree” – “undecided” – “disagree” – “strongly disagree.” . I’m not sure that there is a very large/ meaningful difference between “agree” and “strongly agree” for many types of questions. Also, I suspect this is bad survey design, because you probably shouldn’t be asking survey participants questions they are likely to have no opinion about.

I have only used  surveys in situations where completing the survey is mandatory. In other situations, most people felt that the response rate would be so low that it wouldn’t even be worthwhile to attempt to conduct a survey where participation was incentivized in some way.

Interviews and focus groups take much more time and effort to conduct, but I have felt that the human interaction that is part of these assessment methods has a bigger impact on the end result of the project than most quantitative data. These two methods allow stakeholders to talk about their actual experiences, express their opinions and frustrations, and feel like they are an integral part of whatever changes that end up taking place.

I have not had an opportunity to collect or interpret logged data of actual use, but I hope to be able to do so in the near future.

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