A heuristic evaluation

The usability ‘guru’

I seem to be known as the usability or website guru at work. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and flattered, but importantly I’m slowly crafting a UX (user experience) culture within the office. The biggest problem I have, however, is I’m usually drafted in at a very late stage – usually just before it’s about to go live. I know I’m not alone here – especially in the corporate world – so I know it’s common.

A typical scenario -email transcript – might look like this:

Hi Rob,

Please could you run your checks over my designs? I need to send it back to the designers tomorrow so could I have your feedback as soon as possible please?

Thanks,

– the requester –

“..run your checks..” It’s quite comical, but at least I’m asked so I can’t complain. The trick is to embrace the request and respond (to the requester) in an interested manner.

My lo-fi heuristic evaluation (feedback)

I need to be sensitive to my clients needs. Instead of diving into full scale heuristic – strengths and weaknesses – evaluation, I start basic quick wins feedback they can take to their designers now (before it goes live). I start by printing the visual on an A4 piece of paper and attaching it on to an A3 piece. This gives me plenty around the artwork of space to add my comments, draw lines, speech bubbles, add post-it notes, and even attach cut-out printed Twitter feedback tweet (after I’ve internally posted). I ensure the artifact has lots of colour and activity – making it look interesting and appealing. Once the piece is littered with ‘constructive’ feedback I present it in person for a walk-through. I preferably go to the clients desk so that our walk-through is ‘on show’ for all to see.

I ensure the feedback piece is left with the client so that the UX legacy is left behind – for reference and reminder.

The outcomes

The early results speak for themselves. I’ve been receiving direct and indirect feedback on how it has helped and how they appreciate all the effort. Whilst I’ve not seen earlier requests for help yet, I’m confident that will change.

MSc HCI and ergonomics application at UCL

UCL: University College London

UCL: University College London

I love the excitement and satisfaction of using my experience and ‘training’ to alter the outcome of a web-based interaction. This feeling never tires and it certainly never looses its ‘hit’ with me. You may have realised I have a passion for designing satisfying web-based interactions between users and applications.

Over the last two years I’ve been sponging UX (User Experience) information everywhere. I’ve used conferences, books, meet-ups, videos, blog posts, articles, soaking up as much information as possible. I’ve now reached a point where I need another element – a professional attribute – in the form of a qualification. An education that ties all the pieces together and provides me with certification and industry recognition.

Practicing user-experience design (UxD) presents itself in many forms (Interaction Design/IxD, User Experience/UX, User-Centered Design/UCD, Usability, Information Architecture/IA, etc.) so trying to choose where and what specifically to study was a challenge. My options included: self-study, RCA Interaction Design School, HFI’s UCA course, and many US-based schools like School of Design CarnegieMellon, teaching UX at a very high level. I did some qualitative research with UX professional friends to better understand my options and make an informed descision. Finally, I decided to apply to UCLIC (UCL Interaction Centre), to complete a MSc in HCI and ergonomics as it seems the best choice.

There’s an intake in September so I’ve had to collate my documentation and references. With no undergraduate degree (I have a non-related Diploma in ALS), I’ve had to rely on my related work experience, good references as well as a compelling personal statement. A personal statement requires me to complete my academic interests and reasons for applying. I need to detail my career objectives and any non-academic achievements. I also need to include any relevant experience at specialist workshops or short courses too.

So, here goes. (please feel free to comment if you think I can improve on this. Thanks.)

– APPLICATION SUBMISSION STARTS –

My specific academic interests:

  • Human behaviour – how users interact with applications using available tools
  • Visual design – how users feel (emotional persuasion) and how clear the application is use
  • Heuristic analysis – assessing how the application caters for the user within an understood framework
  • Affordances – the perceived action of a visual design artifact (button, colour, motion, symbol)
  • Commercial benefit – fusing the application intentions, user needs and outcomes together
  • Design patterns – design efficiency and optimisation with understood patterns
  • Social design – understanding how users interact in a social context
  • Communicating design – using rhetoric to effectively communicate meaning and semiotic language through signage and symbols.

My reasons for applying:

I’d like to apply to complete a MSc HCI with ergonomics to gain a deeper and more meaningful understanding of human-computer interactions, including ergonomics. I want to use my existing learnings and experiences with new course learnings culminating in a structured framework. Furthermore, I’d like to develop methodologies enabling me to research, understand and design HCI systems.

Career objectives and any non-academic achievements

My primary objective is to become HCI qualified to give my IxD career a knowledge boost it deserves (and needs). I’d like to introduce UX into my corporate culture where I can inject these learnings into the interfaces/applications we design and build. Also, I’d like to influence the design of our business models – more focus user needs (with business needs too). I’d like to help steer the transition of our first generation web culture into a user-focused second generation culture.

Over recent months I’ve been involved in HCI-related projects. Here are two examples of projects I’ve personally completed:

Project example 1: UX design process introduced into a web portal project. Here’s an example of an interactive (tactile) wireframe. See Wireframes Magazine article for more details.


 

 


Project example 2: Research and heuristic evaluation of a re-design project for a HTML newsletter.

Finally, I hope that with my work-related experience and existing knowledge that you accept me on the HCI and ergonomics programme in September. I look forward to hearing from the Interaction Centre.

– APPLICATION SUBMISSION ENDS –