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Usability in Practice

Page last updated: 11/29/2012

Introduction

Usability has for years been essential in the quality assurance of information technology. Usability has both been studied from an academic and practical point of view. Recent years several studies have looked into usability engineering from different views including training software developers in usability evaluations, how usability evaluations are conducted and analyzed by practitioners and new ways of integrating usability engineering into an agile development process and environment.

Today a diversity of users are connecting from multiple devices and platforms. Especially a shift is seen towards mobile platforms such as smart phones and tablet computers. With thousands of applications available, a fast expansion of IT infrastructure as well as mobile data plans and hardware declining in price, these platforms are becoming mainstream and used by a wide variety of users within different contexts. This opens up for new exciting opportunities as well as new challenges for usability evaluations of software.

As more tasks and interactions have been digitalized online services have become more complex and diverse. To make systems meaningful they need to be usable. The increase of digitalization makes all of society more dependent on useable stable IT systems. Usability engineering has for years been an approach towards more useable systems. In the past usability engineering has mainly been about pointing out usability problems (UP’s). It’s suggested that usability evaluations can be further enhanced if a second focus will be towards ideas for fixing the UP’s, for example, through redesign proposals. Further it has been pointed out that for usability evaluations to be useful they must provide feedback that easily can be acted upon. Using usability evaluations as a source for innovation in development and design is a current overseen topic within usability research. Therefor this project wishes to investigate if usability engineering can support or spawn new and innovative design ideas and changes and look into how this can be implemented into practical software development. The research will primarily be conducted through qualitative studies such as interviews and observations, case studies, and evaluation of methods. It’s a goal to conduct some studies in cooperation with an industry partner. A first step will be to understand current development practices and how usability is practiced within software development organizations. Secondly the aim will be to investigate the possibilities of usability as a mean for innovation in development and design. The expected outcome of the project is approaches and guidelines towards more efficient, valuable, and practical usability engineering that both will be of interest for academics and practitioners.