Sorry, we could not find the combination you entered »
Please enter your email and we will send you an email where you can pick a new password.
Reset password:
 

free

 
By Thomas Baekdal - June 2006

Efficient Usability Analyzer

Five years ago I learned about 4 basic concepts that dramatically changed my approach to usability. These were that it must be fast, efficient, simple, and focused.

Fast, efficient and simple are concepts that are based on old mathematical concepts.

Sounds simple right?

The best part of this approach is not that it is simple. It is that you can measure how usable your product is, before you show it to other people (like in user testing).

Prior to using this concept, I made a lot products that I believed was good. But the problem was, I didn't know until I had tested it with real people. Many times I tried making something, only to see people confused by it in a user testing. This was an unacceptable situation.

The major problem with user testing is that it comes after the work phase. It is a problem because it means that you are working blindfolded. You don't know the result of your work until it has been completed. This also means that you do not have control over your project plan (or that you have to plan everything to take longer than it should).

User testing is great for getting the finer details right, not as a general usability measurement.

Instead you need a tool that help you analyze the work ahead of you - before you start doing anything. This is one of the strong points of the "Fast, Efficient, Simple and Focused" concept.

The Analyzer

I have made an Excel analyzer (freebie) to help you do this. I have been using this successfully for the last 5 years - for both analyzing the best solution to a problem or when evaluated other people's work.

For me, it has been a tremendous time saver. It has allowed me to focus more on actually solving people goals and less time one guessing what approach is best.

Download

How to use?

You use the analyzer by entering each step you need to take to perform a certain task. When doing comparison analysis it is important that your start and end points are the same. If you start with the mouse in one analysis, you must also start with the mouse in any subsequent analysis.

See also: "AJAX Type Ahead" example below

Selectors

Example #1: AJAX Type Ahead in search

Type-ahead is popping up everywhere. We got Apple Spotlight, Google Suggest and Windows Vista's "Start Search" as well as a huge number of varies implementations in AJAX and Web 2.0 applications. But how does it actually in perform in terms of efficient usability?

Analysis parameters:

Base comparison, No type-ahead
Action: Type in the full search keyword, submit, activate the third result.

Instant type ahead: The results will appear immediately after each keystroke
Action: Start to type the full keyword, evaluate each result until we have a match, activate the third result

Instant type ahead - keyboard only: The results will appear immediately after each keystroke, and the result can be activated using the keyboard (key down x 3 + Enter)
Action: Start to type the full keyword, evaluate each result until we have a match, activate the third result

Delayed type-ahead: The results will appear 0.5 seconds after the user has stopped typing
Action: Type in the full search keyword, wait for the results, activate the third result.

Goggle Suggest type-ahead: The result is not the actual pages, but search terms.
Action: Start to type the full keyword, evaluate each result until we have a match, highlight the match, evaluate the results, activate the third result.

Comparison results: There isn't much to gain by using AJAX with search. All methods, except delayed type-ahead, is less efficient than a non-AJAX solution - with Google Suggest being the worst implementation of all.

Both Apple's Spotlight and Windows Vista's "Start Search" uses delayed type-ahead.

Notice: The analysis for both instant and Google Suggest has been simplified. The decision steps should have been repeated * the power of practice instead of simply grouping them together. The result is thus faster than in a correct analysis.

Example #2: AJAX Type Ahead in form fields

Another use for AJAX is to quick fill form fields, like when you add resources to tasks in a project.

Analysis parameters:

Base comparison: No type-ahead - full name
Action: Type in the full name of the resource, move to the next field [TAB]

Automatic type-ahead: Type in initials and automatically convert them
Action: Type in the initials, move to the next field [TAB]

Instant type-ahead: The results will appear immediately after each keystroke
Action: Start to type the full keyword, evaluate each result until we have a match, activate the second result, move the to next field.

Instant type ahead - keyboard only: The results will appear immediately after each keystroke, and the result can be activated using the keyboard (key down x 2 + Enter)
Action: Start to type the full keyword, evaluate each result until we have a match, activate the second result, move to the next field.

Comparison results: Again we see an interesting pattern. Using AJAX to create an instant type-ahead feature is directly counter-productive. It is much faster to simply do without. But, using AJAX to automate can create a much more usable experience - in this case it speeds up the process by an amazing 500%

Notice: The analysis for instant type-ahead has again been simplified.

See Also

 
 
 

The Baekdal Plus Newsletter is the best way to be notified about the latest media reports, but it also comes with extra insights.

Get the newsletter

Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé

 

—   thoughts   —

free

thoughts:
The Media is Like Having Your Best Friend Let You Down

free

thoughts:
The EU Snippet Tax is not About Copyright. It's About Protecting the Press

free

thoughts:
Smart Voice Assistants and Smart Homes ... from the past

free

thoughts:
Fixing how the Media Covers the US Midterm Election

free

thoughts:
It's not about polish. It's about dedication

free

thoughts:
Inside Story: What I did to get GDPR Compliant