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What is usability evaluation?
Usability evaluation may include a variety of methods to examine the extent to which a system is effective, efficient, engaging, and efficient - basically, it is an evaluation of how use-able something is. These factors may or may not hold equal importance depending on what type of interface or system is being evaluated. The rule of thumb is to “test early and often” to yield reliable and user-centered technologies.
To obtain relevant findings, participants in a usability evaluation should be actual or potential users. There are multiple ways in which an evaluation can be carried out. In fact, all the methods listed in this resource can be part of a usability evaluation.
Examples of usability approaches
Users may be asked to freely use an item such as a display as they choose free-play style, while they are observed. Follow up questions on user experience may be used to capture opinions and challenges.
Numerous pre-existing, validated scales such as the System Usability Scale (SUS) (Digital Equipment Corporation, 1986) are available to assess user experience. The advantages of using pre-existing scales are that they are proven, and likely include a protocol with scoring methods.
If no existing scale meets your needs, design your own questions. Questions can be asked verbally or in a paper-and-pencil format, or a combination of both. Questions may be designed to use a single or multiple formats such as fill in the blank, essay, multiple choice, Likert scale, etc.
Users may be asked to conduct specific tasks with the technology or answer questions that involve finding informational elements using the technology.
Evaluators may measure response time to determine how long it takes users to complete a task or to find information.
Focus groups, card sorts, wireframe testing, satisfaction surveys, experiments, and multi-method approaches can be used to assess usability. Select the methods and participants that will yield findings that can be used to support the design of user-centered systems