Tuesday, April 12, 2005

courses and evaluations

I'm currently working on the material for the usability course that Flo and I are preparing for a "courses by students for students" project at our university. Right now I'm trying to make a siplified usability lifecycle (our audience will be comprised of beginners - the software-ergonomics lectures they took were very dry and theoretical, so I don't think much of anything stuck). My goal is to combine Alan Cooper's personas and the usual task analysis that e.g. Mayhew proposes in her last book, which turns out to be harder than it looked initially. The analysis that focuses on the demographic, sociographic and psychopathic profile of the target users is closely intertwined with the persona creation, because you need this information to build your personas, but i'd still like to keep them separate. But I'm pretty sure that incorporating personas is essential because they appear to be really useful to give your target user a face and to prevent an "average" user from creeping in. It focuses usability efforts very well. But ah, so little time, so much to do. I still need to refine the section about conceptual models, which is also an important issue (the most important one, actually). But at least I already know where I can fit it into the lifecycle.
Flo is working on the "heuristic evaluation" part. I collected some notes from the net yesterday that he will use. It wasn't easy to find detailed information on how to really do the evaluation. Everybody talks about heuristics all the time, but what to do with them they seldom mention. The evaluation can either be done by defining a set of tasks that need to be executed with the system and everything that seems to be a problem has to be noted down. Or you just thoroughly go through the interface, scrubbing every single screen and interaction element, noting down problems.
I just hope I will finish the course material stuff soon, because I desparatly want to go on evaluating KDevelop and finally give the developers some results. I've already started to go through KDev-Assistant and write things down, but I'm a bit unsure how I want to present the information. I would love to incorporate screenshots but I'm not sure the developers want some html page instead of a simple report as an email they can easily refer to when citing. I've also been looking into a dedicated usability bug system for that purpose. It looks like nothing open source of the kind exists yet. But since somebody was faster than me in implementing a speed-reading program in j2me for cell phones, I need a new topic for my Studienarbeit. A usability "bugzilla" tailored to the needs of usability issues and is easy to use (!) sounds like a good idea. I still need to check with my potential tutor who knows his way around the database stuff if this can be done in such a short time (3 months).


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