Usability Testing and User Experience Design
What is Usability Testing and User Experience Design?
Are they the same or different. Can a Technical Writer contribute to any or both of these, and how..
Usability Testing is to test Product UI (User Interface). Purpose of doing UI Testing is to check whether using product UI (Identifying required areas in the application) is easy or not.
As a technical writer you can very well contribute to UI testing since you are the first one who uses the application as an end user.
As a Technical Writer we can give our feedback on the screen design and usability of the application. Basically we are first person to work on the application, hence we can give our feedback on application UI design.
User Experience Design:
As a Technical Writer we need to have hands on knowledge in Graphic designing tools like Photoshop, etc., We need to work on different aspects on usability of UI design.
I feel there is a major difference in Usability testing and User Experience design.
Thanks for these replies Sundar amd Kumar. Now with reference to Usability Testing, is there a process and methodology to define an applications usability?
For example, I am using an application first hand. I need to communicate my views on the application. I cannot arbitrarily derive anything on my own. I need to substantiate it using certain parameters.
At present every company use their own process and methodology to design UI based on certain user experience concepts. You can find lots of stuff regarding this on net. While giving feedback on application UI, you can segregate UI on color policies followed, fonts, buttons, check boxes, radio buttons, number of clicks to accomplish a task, white space on UI, navigations, etc.,
Yes, a technical writer can contribute to Usability Testing as well as User Experience Design. Given the availability of resources (people, time, money) and the expertise of the technical writer involved, he/she can own the effort as well.
Usability testing is testing a product or web interface from the end user perspective. There are a whole host of methodologies available for usability testing - heuristic evaluation, user persona creation, user interviews, user profiling etc. The ideal fit is a combination of these methods based on the particular context of the assignment. The web is teeming with a lot of information that will give you a good background on usability testing so as to enable you to do it independently. From my experience, I can tell you, that given the limitations a typical IT company, especially that based out of India, we end up leaning mostly towards heuristic evaluation. Just a word of caution, Usability Testing should be conducted in parallel to the development cycle; else it's almost always too late to fix the findings.
User Experience Design is, I feel, an extension to the Usability Testing paradigm. User Experience design, simplistically put, is implementing the findings of usability testing into a design that meets the goals of the end-user as well as the identified stakeholders. However, you need to have an extensive knowledge of not only web designing tools (that will help you to design the GUI) but also a working knowledge of developing/prototyping tools that will help you simulate the desired end-user experience.
There's a lot of exploring that one can do in this field and a lot of useful resources are readily available on the net. I swear by useit.com (by Jakob Nielsen). You can check it out!
Good to see the comments from our well known TWIN friends. I would like to answer your question in rather simple manner.
Usability Testing = Use + able Testing
The task of a technical writer is to simplify the configuration of the product or enhance the user-friendliness of GUI. This does infer that the role of the technical writer is similar to that of a tester, working with CRs (change requests).
For example: Consider there is an instruction on the screen which says to enter the phone number. As a usability tester, if you find that the phone number field is accepting characters, then you can escalate the error to the development team. This situation is a known blunder in majority of the products, which gets unnoticed till the product is delivered.
Another live example: The application can be perfect in all terms, such as accepting input, storing the information in the database and generating reports but misleading in terms of instructions. There can sentence construction errors, lack of parallelism for the labels, etc. The application might function well but does not convey good message to the end user. As a technical writer, we have this wonderful opportunity to notify such errors to the development team.
User Experience Design
As far as I know, User Experience Design is the process capturing key details in terms of end user perspective. This procedure takes place before the end product is developed. Several prototypes of the user interfaces are initially designed and necessary inputs are procured from various sources to customize the look and feel of the product. User Experience Design could be a long process, but increases the effectiveness of the product functionality.
Good explanation! However, I would like to raise a red flag for one of your examples.
"For example: Consider there is an instruction on the screen which says to enter the phone number. As a usability tester, if you find that the phone number field is accepting characters, then you can escalate the error to the development team. This situation is a known blunder in all majority products, which gets unnoticed till the product is delivered. "
According to my knowledge identifying the accepting characters in a field is not a part of Usability testing. It is a part of acceptance testing (core testing).
Usability testing is to identify how easy it is to use the product or to identify the difficulties with the user interface.
I feel Wikipedia has good story on this. I know by this time most us might have already refered to Wikipedia(great knowledge bank) :)
Technical Writing Trainer.
Thanks for your reply.