Card sorting is a technique in user experience design in which a person tests a group of subject experts or users to generate a dendrogram (category tree) or folksonomy. It is a useful approach for designing information architecture, workflows, menu structure, or web site navigation paths.
Card sorting uses a relatively low-tech approach. The person conducting the test (usability analyst, user experience designer, etc.) first identifies key concepts and writes them on index cards or Post-it notes. Test subjects, individually or sometimes as a group, then arrange the cards to represent how they see the structure and relationships of the information.
Groups can be organized as collaborative groups (focus groups) or as repeated individual sorts. The literature discusses appropriate numbers of users needed to produce trustworthy results.
A card sort is commonly undertaken when designing a navigation structure for an environment that offers a variety of content and functions, such as a web site. In that context, the items to organize are those significant in the environment. The way the items are organized should make sense to the target audience and cannot be determined from first principles.
The field of information architecture is founded on the study of the structure of information. If an accepted and standardized taxonomy exists for a subject, it would be natural to apply that taxonomy to organize both the information in the environment, and any navigation to particular subjects or functions. Card sorting is useful when:
The variety of items to organize is so great that no existing taxonomy is accepted as organizing the items.
Similarities among the items make them difficult to divide clearly into categories.
Members of the audience that uses the environment differ significantly in how they view the similarities among items and the appropriate groupings of items.
In an expert review, usability experts review a product or application based on established usability standards and guidelines. An expert opinion identifies major usability problems and possibilities for improvement of a product.
The quality of an expert review not only depends on a systematic and methodical approach but is also strongly determined by the knowledge and experience of the experts and their knowledge of a particular sector and/or experience with comparable applications.
An expert review is worthwhile both during new interface design as well as during further development (e.g., for performance improvement) of products and applications. A finished system is not needed in order to perform an expert review.
Initial designs or wire frames are sufficient to identify common usability stumbling blocks. In particular, expert analyses performed at an early stage and continuously will ensure that the development of a product does not head off in the wrong direction. It is useful when:
Feedback within a short time
Little effort is required
Ideal in combination with usability testing
Eye tracking is a sensor technology that can detect a person’s presence and follow what they are looking at in real-time. The technology converts eye movements into a data stream that contains information such as pupil position, the gaze vector for each eye, and gaze point. Essentially, the technology decodes eye movements and translates them into insights that can be used in a wide range of applications or as an additional input modality. Typically, an eye tracking system comprises one or more cameras, some light sources, and computing capabilities. Algorithms translate the camera feed into data points with the help of machine learning and advanced image processing. When combined with other input modalities, such as keyboards, touch screens, and voice, eye tracking provides application developers with new ways to enhance the user experience and build intuitive and engaging applications and device interfaces. While the general principal of how they work is the same, there are several different eye tracking device types available and the one most appropriate for the user depends on the nature of their research. The main groups are:
- Screen based – These are stand-alone, remote devices which either come as an individual unit or a smaller panel which can be attached to a laptop or monitor.
- Wearable – These include eye tracking glasses and virtual reality (VR) headsets with integrated eye tracking.
- Webcam – Webcam eye trackers don’t have sensors or specialized cameras, they are solely comprised of the webcam device attached or built-in to a computer. While there are almost endless fields in which this technology and research methodology could be applied, there are several which use eye tracking extensively. They include:
- Market Research
- User Experience
- Scientific Research
- Industry and Human Performance
Field studies are research activities that take place in the user’s context rather than in your office or lab.
The range of possible field-study methods and activities is very wide. Field studies also vary a lot in terms of how the researcher interacts (or doesn’t) with participants. Some field studies are purely observational (the researcher is a “fly on the wall”), some are interviews in which the questions evolve as understanding increases, and some involve prototype feature exploration or demonstration of pain points in existing systems. Field research is usually done with one of the following goals in mind:
- Gather task information
- Understand people’s needs and discover opportunities for addressing them
- Obtain data for journey maps, personas, use cases, and user stories
- Test systems under realistic conditions
- Participant observation
- The case study
- Qualitative Interviews
- It is conducted in a real-world and natural environment where there is no tampering of variables and the environment is not doctored.
- Due to the study being conducted in a comfortable environment, data can be collected even about ancillary topics.
- The researcher gains a deep understanding into the research subjects due to the proximity to them and hence the research is extensive, thorough and accurate.
Usability Testing refers to evaluating a product or service by testing it with representative users. Typically, during a test, participants will try to complete typical tasks while observers watch, listen and takes notes. The goal is to identify any usability problems, collect qualitative and quantitative data and determine the participant’s satisfaction with the product.
To run an effective usability test, you need to develop a solid test plan, recruit participants, and then analyze and report your findings. Usability testing lets the design and development teams identify problems before they are coded. The earlier issues are identified and fixed, the less expensive the fixes will be in terms of both staff time and possible impact to the schedule. During a usability test, you will:
Learn if participants are able to complete specified tasks successfully and
Identify how long it takes to complete specified tasks
Find out how satisfied participants are with your Web site or other product
Identify changes required to improve user performance and satisfaction
Analyze the performance to see if it meets your usability objectives
Your testing costs depend on:
Consider these elements when budgeting for usability testing:
Remote Usability Testing
The benefits of remote usability test are:
Research that happens in the participant’s natural environment is more realistic than lab research
Feedback and outcomes are honest and unbiased because the setting isn’t artificial
Feedback is representative of a wider population because the geographical location can be more diverse
Contextual findings emerge when a product is used naturally. Remote usability testing can be conducted using two different methods: *Moderated* or *Unmoderated*. While there are pros and cons to both methods, choosing which is right for you will depend on your specific situation and what your goals are.
Traditional usability testing has been conducted in-lab, but remote usability testing allows you to test more participants quicker for a much lower cost. When done correctly, it can be a secret weapon for teams who iteratively test and implement customer feedback.
Designers usually create user persona template templates, which include a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character (e.g. quotes of real users), as well as context-specific details (for example, for a banking app it makes sense to include a persona’s financial sophistication and major expenses).
Some of the benefits of using user personas are:
Provide direction for making design decisions
Communicate research findings
Few characteristics of a good persona:
Personas aren’t fictional guesses at what a target user thinks. Every aspect of a persona’s description should be tied back to real data (observed and researched).
Personas reflect real user patterns, not different user roles. Personas aren’t a reflection of roles within a system.
A persona focuses on the current state (how users interact with a product), not the future (how users will interact with a product).
A persona is context-specific (it’s focused on the behaviors and goals related to the specific domain of a product). Generally, when creating a user persona template you should include the following information:
Demographics (gender, age, location, marital status, family)
Goals and needs
Frustrations (or “pain points”)
Bits of personality (e.g. a quote or slogan that captures the personality)