Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Usability Findings is like an episode of CSI

I'm a big CSI (Crime Scene Investigations) fan and I'm starting to come across some parallels on how the usability profession is very much like solving a crime - or in this case, the crime of un-usability. So here's my take:

Where this parallel starts is when product support finally tells the development team that users can't take this frustration any more. "Do something about it!" they would cry. So the manager comes to the usability professionals after determining it might have something to do with usability - usually because it wasn't covered before.

So, as usability professionals, we start investigating. We first look at the data given to us by support - do some supposition and hypothesizing, some reflection, some research. We also use observational techniques, question those suspects that may be violating the usability laws.

We pour some heuristic phenol into the samples and find out there is blood - instant proof that someone has bled from the unforgiving usability issue. Let's just hope the user doesn't have carpel tunnel because of it!

We conduct more tests to prove or disprove our hypotheses. "Let the data tell the story" is our mantra. Through this, we can find the culprit - the issue that's holding us back to release 6.0 from version

The blue UV lights of remote testing tells some more, uncovering and unraveling more than we wanted. The task flow DNA tells us little molecular and granular stories that something is fundamentally wrong.

"So what did you find?" Grissom Neilsen would ask.

An eyebrow goes up in surprise as the team hands him the final paper, the usability finding.

The issue is then resolved by confronting the developer user offender. He/she sweat in their pants for minutes in the interrogation room before he/she finally gives it up. They can't take it anymore!

The offender confesses.

The difference is, no one goes to jail. No one gets reprimanded. Usability on anything can always be improved.

So please, feel free to confess before going through an episode such as this - unless of course you want such entertainment.

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