As a Business Analyst (BA) we are often asked to help design a new user interface and the supporting application to perform a required function in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. If you are talking about a web interface you may work with a graphic designer, or perhaps not. You go off with your business application development design team and create a mock-up of the interface and write a design specification describing how it is to be built. Often the business is not represented on the design team. The design team may pass the mock-up and design specification by a business Subject Matter Expert (SME) before attempting to get it approved; but then they are often approved by a business manager without ever being seen by the end-users that will actually use the new application. Often, features and function are primary concerns when the design is being created. What if we change focus of our design team?
Last time we took a look at the first of two main concepts that of User Experiences Practices—Personas. I hope you are able to see the power that Personas can have for an enterprise application development team. Let’s now take a look at the second concept—Usability testing.
As I noted often an application with a new user interface, or changes to user interfaces are often put into place without the end users ever seeing the interface, or changes to the interface. This can lead to the users not liking or using the interface. This outcome can be changed by conducting some Usability Testing during the design of the interface or changes to an interface.
Usability Testing is done by selecting three to five persons from the user community, usually from the primary or secondary user group of the user interface, and have them test a mockup of the interface. No more than five users are necessary for usability testing as you will receive decreasing benefits from additional users. Also, you may have to run more than one round of usability testing. Take the results of the first round that suggest changes are needed, make those changes to the mockup and run another round of usability testing with different three to five users.
The idea of Usability Testing is to create an interface that is intuitive for the users to use. So you will create a mockup of the interface, it does not have to be functional a paper mockup will do. Just so the users get an idea of what the interface will look like. You will also create user scenarios to have user perform tasks using the interface. Show them the interface and ask them to do the tasks. Do not give them hints or tell them how to do the tasks, you wish to see how intuitive the use of the interface is. If they take a long time to figure out how to do the task or have questions on how to use the interface then the interface needs designed to be easier for the user to use.
Using the two concepts of User Experience Practices will help your application development teams design more user friendly interfaces. Are you ready to design for user experience?