Liveblog: Are You Usable?


At Northeast PHP, Heather O’Neill talks about “Are You Usable”? Like websites, people can be usable by being:

- Helpful
- Straightforward
- Easy to interact with
- Inspires confidence

We want the experience to be effortless, pleasant and successful.

One of the problems with designing something new is that someone is left out – a developer, designer, marketer or manager

5 Tips for being usable:
- Be proactive early
- Have a checklist of standard questions
- Stand up for what you know about your users
- Uncover assumptions
- Create reference materials

Be proactive early
- Get into those early-stage meetings – ask to be a part of them
- Have a plan

Have a checklist of standard questions
- What are we optimizing for?
- How will the product scale, from 10 to 100 to 100,000 users?
- How will we test the product, and what will define success?
- How will the deliverables be delivered?

Stand up for what you know about your users
- Think through what YOU know about your users, and communicate that knowledge
- When you don’t know enough, acknowledge it
- [remind yourself that most of what you know is biased]

Uncover assumptions
- An un-shared assumption is a dangerous one
- Start by examining your own assumptions, to get the conversation going
[that can be tough, because you think you know] – the way to reconcile that is to do usability testing and decide on your target audience(s) – are you making a product for a manager or a tech user or an end customer? If you have a web app, are you developing for a non-technical elderly person or a tech-savvy college student?

Some assumptions –
“We assume that mockups will be delivered as PSD files”
“We assume that we can use the same technical infrastructure for feature X as we have for existing feature Y, because the UI is similar”
They have lists of assumptions in their statements of work (SoWs).

Create reference materials
- What internal documentation will be most helpful?
- What internal tools and processes does the team need to know about?
- What materials will help us maintain the product in the future?

Consider visuals e.g. for data flows, or templates for a CMS.