by Nate Schutta
Usa-what now? While most developers are schooled in algorithms and programming languages, they often lack a grounding in the fundamentals of usability; we'll start by exploring what usability is dispelling many of the myths surrounding this misunderstood aspect of software. We'll show why usability matters and help you see how it can make the difference on your projects.
The who - developing pragmatic personas. We can't build a great UI without knowing who we're building it for. Personas are a time tested technique to help teams understand their users and facilitate building the right interface. While personas are often backed by extensive ethnographic research, they don't require months and months of effort. We'll explore the use of pragmatic personas to see how they can simplify the task of interface design. As an exercise, we'll develop personas for our application.
The what - figuring out just what to build. Of course just knowing who we're building for is only part of the picture, we have to know what our users are trying to do. Wether you favor use cases, user stories or more traditional requirements documents, at the end of the day our customers are using our application to further some other goal. In this section we'll discuss tasks and scenarios showing how they contribute to the overall design process. Using story maps, we'll write up a set of user goals expanding them into tasks that will help us design a set of interfaces.
The how - designing rocking good interfaces. Want to know the secret to designing great interfaces? We'll talk about the importance of iteration; just as our code is rarely right on the first try, neither are our interfaces. To facilitate the iterative process, we'll discuss the vital importance of paper prototyping. That's right, paper and pencil are your best tools. We'll also talk about why some designs are better than others discussing the heuristics that are second nature to the experienced designer. We'll also discuss design guidelines talking about how to make sure yours aren't just a dusty document sitting in a rarely visited corner of the LAN. We'll sketch up a variety of approaches focussing on quick and dirty designs that allow us to explore a plethora of options.
Testing our design - making sure we're on the right path. Just as we test our code, we must test our interfaces. While we may not have UIunit at our disposal, testing our UIs is just as important as testing our code. From recruiting users to preparing the space, we'll discuss how to get ready for a test. We'll talk about the various roles in a user test from the all important moderator to playing computer and taking notes. User tests can be very stressful, we'll discuss ways to put our customers at ease. We'll also discuss the best way to communicate the results of testing to the rest of your team. We'll prepare a deck to test a given scenario. We'll take that deck and test it with our "customers." Of course we can also desk check our interfaces using standard heuristics - we'll look at some existing applications discussing what was done right and what could be done better.
23rd–25th September 2011