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Programme Meeting for usability

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Last Wednesday, we had a JISC programme meeting which all of the projects attended.

There were some really high-profile projects there but I was suprised that so few ‘researchers’ attended – it was dominated by software professionals (I should probably include myself in that description!). Therein lies the first observation – one of the current perception of usability, that it’s an engineering discipline. This situation really isn’t healthy – usability affects the success of the whole project, initially and throughout its life.

Now I consider myself (correctly or otherwise) a proficient user of systems, meaning I can work my way around most things and am perfectly content to read help files to that aim. However, during the presentatons, I got the distinct feeling that I’d be pretty much lost if I had to take a usability test on these other websites and products. So my second observation is to be really careful about who we invite to take tests. We need intelligence not statistics – that means being able to segment the feedback along research classifications. Are we, as engineers, the right people to be left doing this function?

This programme is looking at taking usability and proving its worth to a set of people (researchers) who may not even know it exists as a field. At the moment, they don’t even speak the language, and monitoring how that changes will be an interesting secondary benefit of undertaking this research.

Comments

  1. Ben

    You make some very pertinent points. I think these are real issues, and things that the programme needs to both attempt to address (and go some way toward remedies), and to keep an eye on to ensure we don’t get sucked too deeply into the technologies and mechanics, rather than the user.It will be interesting to see the relationship between the ‘usability’ focused projects, and the more research focused ‘adaptability’ projects. Can these two strands help inform and keep each other in order? Is there the time? How will the support project influence this?Early days, but lots to think about and to try and address.

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