UPA 2007 – The Challenges of Integrating Usability

Evangelizing Usability, Human Computer Interaction, Information Management, Tools, Usability, User Experience, UX Tasks and Deliverables


UPA 2007

Austin, TX – Thursday June 14th

The Challenges of Integrating Usability (Panel)

Panelists: Laura Seuschek (K12 , Inc.), Mary Beth Rettger (MathWorks, Inc.), Sean Fitzpatrick (Aquilent), Beth Toland (Revolution Health)

The Challenges of Integrating Usability

The following are the suggested solutions to the questions posed by the panel moderator and the audience. Each of the panelists have different backgrounds working in different situations, so their solutions to a problem may contradict each other. Please contact Laura Seuschek (lseuschek@k12.com) with further comments, questions, or suggestions.

Challenges getting traction for UX:

  • Increase visibility. Provide consistent deliverables both in time and form
  • Understand business language. Learn to talk the talk.
  • Have an advocate.
  • Change the language of the discussion from business or statistics to User Experience vocabulary. That is the language we are fluent in and can defend.
  • Create and maintain channels of communication both into and out of UX to start conversations
  • Bring in the users. Good PR for UX.

Rapid Expansion Causes team isolation and break down of process:

  • Get a seat at the table early
  • Try to reclarify company and group processes to identify the problems

Qualitative vs. Quantitative data. Why is UX data valid?

  • Use academic and accepted usability field research as foundation for justification
  • Don’t talk numbers if it is not your strength
  • Bring nay-sayers in to watch a usability test
  • Research is cumulative. Results of a test aren’t just those results but an analysis based on as accumulation of insights and experience from all past research

Who can see\use the data? When?

  • Hire a research and data coordinator for the company to deal with this issue
  • Attach a UX team member to the data to help with interpretation and proper usage
  • Discuss results upfront to try and prevent overreactions. Use other metrics to balance results

Customer communication (blogs, groups, wikis) is being monitored and causing overreactions:

  • Allow and encourage user to user communication. They can help each other put out fires to company doesn’t have to scramble every time for small issues.
  • Encourage users to step up as in product community in “leadership” roles. They will help the customer base and be an advocate.
  • Create a template and database to log all complaints. Give each a ranking so most important will be dealt with first. This will slow the process to a manageable speed.
  • Give an outlet to users to complain but prepare the company to deal with the results.

Budget \ Time \ Resources – How to deal with these factors:

  • Don’t over-stretch. Do only what you can do. Work only on priorities. Gaps and pain-points will be felt more strongly and then resourced.
  • Core UX skills are not technology dependent. Without the resources just figure it out. Be inventive, flexible, and creative. Focus on methodology.
  • Don’t spend time on embellishments.
  • Tie research to highest risk areas.

Explaining the usability intangibles:

  • Use common language to help developers “see” the user experience. Parables, stories, etc…
  • Decisions are not based on tests. Decisions are based on the analysis of information which comes from a test.
  • Give examples of when statistical data does not show the real picture and field testing will

Marketing usability internally:

  • Put up posters of research results on the walls and in the lunch room
  • Give the UX team a brand
  • Use and socialize UX vocabulary and language
  • Make the information interesting. About the user not just about bug fixes.
  • Create a team culture and wear it proudly
  • Send internal emails with research results
  • Market to the VPs. Let UX staff talk and present to senior staff.
  • Bring in the users. Connect the developers to the end user.

Iterative Design vs. the need for rapid development:

  • Build iteration into project development from beginning
  • Give immediate debriefs
  • Get UX involvement from start of project
  • Do some internal selling and set realistic time expectations
  • Show results, even incremental
  • Create Hollywood prototypes to placate

Visibility after project finishes:

  • Have an advocate
  • Train an evangelist
  • Train developers in basic UX processes and ideology
  • Provide tutorials, templates, and workshops
  • Tie product success to UX
  • Match UCD standards to other company standards to show group is aligned with company goals

What does a UX team do?

  • Focus on strengths and expertise of the group.
  • Focus on priorities and resources
  • Socialize what the team can and will do
  • Accommodation is a slippery slope
  • Have a slush fund. 20% (?) of your time to do projects you want to do and you think are important. Pet projects. Professional development. Etc.
  • If you have to say no, give other options on how to get the job done without direct UX involvement.




Wiring Classes for Auido


An interesting article from Time Magazine which says based on studies through BYU, simple sound amplification of a teacher’s voice in a classroom can increase test scores.

A link to the Time Mag website: Time Magazine: Now Hear This

A link to the article in pdf: Classrooms Wired for Audio

Adaptation for Virtual Learning


Everything Virtual (link to pdf)

I found an interesting article on requirements for virtual learning environments. 3 things were of particular interest.

#1 The concept of stretchtext. When a link is clicked, supplemental text is inserted (or removed) into the original text. I assume this could work for graphics as well. it allows for additional info without moving to another page and losing total focus and direction.

#2 The concept of a Virtual Student Clone. Students learn by teaching their virtual clone. Metrics can be derived from testing the clones learning. Really interesting concept.

#3 The importance of emotion for learning and how emotion can be included in a virtual environment.

(if the above link doesnt work — http://www2.iicm.edu/cguetl/papers/everything_virtual/everythink_virtual.pdf )

Links from BLC Presentation

Education, Elementary School, High School, How Students Learn, Interaction Design, Middle School

Building Learning Communities Conference



Marco Torres



Darren Kuropatwa





MIT MEDIA LAB – Lifelong Kindergarten





Examples of Good Design

Human Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, Usability, Visualization

Ok. So I came across these 2 sites. I think the design is subtle but very effective. Thought I would pass them around.

The first is a search mechanism for flickr. Flickr.com is essentially an online photo album. It gives you space to store your digital pictures and allows an interface for you to share it with your friends.

The site I found, http://www.airtightinteractive.com/projects/related_tag_browser/app/ , is a search engine for flickr photos. I don’t think its actually affiliated with the site. The front page is about as simple as possible, and the search results are interactive. Not only giving you options of zooming into thumbnailed sets but also on the outside access to other linked categories. it allows search by ideas instead of file names.

The second site is called chowhound. It’s a posting board for restaurant reviews. If you have seen it before, take a second look, they have a new layout. http://www.chowhound.com/ . open up one of the longer threads. Something with 20 or 30 replies and scroll through. I really like the layout. It’s top to bottom, oldest to newest, but look at the nesting. You immediately know if a post is an original, a reply, a reply to a reply, etc. there is no need for referencing. Reduction of clutter.

Just some thoughts