The Usability and Learnability programme recently held a small workshop in central London where the 12 projects making up the programme were given a chance to get a glimpse of the UsabilityUK project prototype system, test it and offer feedback. The projects also discussed progress of the programme, their experiences and lessons learned as well as future plans.
UsabilityUK will create an authoritative usability resource for UK HE (and beyond) and a first port of call for HE projects and institutions who have a user facing component to the work they plan to do.
The Usability and Learnability programme aims to explore practical usability techniques and the improvement of user interfaces for research tools to help provide a better experience for users. This includes general usability work, but also an exploration of techniques for developing user interfaces that are easy to learn and can adapt to different users and use cases.
The day included some good discussions, and it seems worthwhile briefly reflecting on some of the themes that emerged from the day:
- Among the usability methods discussed, the use of personas attracted much interest, especially as it was seen as a good way to help developers understand the needs of the users. The point was made that developing personas should not take too much time if it is done as part of initial requirements planning for a project.
- A number of the projects present made the point that adopting a more user-centric approach to their work meant that usability became a framework in which to undertake a project, rather than a workpackage within a project. Usability becomes a way to understand and manage the entire project, rather than a nice add-on that takes place at some point before the project finishes.
- The usability resource needs to provide ‘a foot in the door’ for those that are coming to the website without any real prior engagement in this type of work. This might be a short piece of text that could also serve as an introduction to usability and relevant concepts, and it should include some ‘pathways’ that help users navigate a route through the resource. Developing different routes for different user groups is also a general theme of the whole programme and something that that the learnability projects are exploring as a core part of their work.
- Sharing and de-duplication: A lot of feedback concerned the fact that the UsabilityUK prototype was squarely aimed at sharing best practice and helping projects find existing resources, rather than having to re-do work over again. One of the aims of UsabilityUK is to ensure that future projects are able to skip some of that preliminary work that has been done many times before by many others.
- One of the most interesting discussions surrounded the way information is gathered for the resource, and whether a form was the best method. Despite the often repeated mantra: forms, damned forms and reports many of the group voiced the opinion that an online form of some description would be a necessity. It was good to hear that the group were willing to consider a bit more form filling to help share their work and improve the resource for other projects benefit.
You can follow the progress of the Usability and Learnability projects via the JISC website.This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.