User needs analysis & usability testing <Re: Question on courses for UK-based Tech Writers>

Subject: User needs analysis & usability testing <Re: Question on courses for UK-based Tech Writers>
From: "Nancy Osterhout" <bluetwilight -at- home -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 07:19:35 -0700

Ian Saunders wants to know if

>>any UK-based tech writers know of any courses (aside from
undergraduate courses in tech writing) in this country covering:

* User Needs Analysis
* Usability Testing

Failing that, do you know of any good books, web pages or other
resources containing guidelines for performing these tasks (rather
than just the theory of why they are important)?<<

Well, Ian, I don't know about courses in the UK. But I do recommend
these books by Janice (Ginny) Redish, PhD from whom I took a full-day
seminar at attending a presentation to my local STC chapter last year
on both those topics. Ginny is an amazing woman who, like her books,
is down-to-earth and puts the theory right where it belongs -- where
the rubber meets the road!

1) User and Task Analysis for Interface Design,
by JoAnn T. Hackos and Janice C. Redish
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
ISBN 0-471-17831-4

The back cover of the book says:

<This book> helps you design a great user interface by focusing on the
most important step in the process -- the first one. You learn to go
out and observe your users at work, whether they are employees of your
company or people in customer organizations. You learn to find out
what your users really need, not by asking them what they want, but by
going through a process of understanding what they are trying to

<The authors>, internationally known experts in usable design, take
you through a step-by-step process to conduct a user and task
analysis. You learn:

* How interface designers use user and task analysis to build
successful interfaces
* Why knowledge of users, their tasks, and their environments is
critical to successful design
* How to prepare and set up your site visits
* How to select and train your user and task analysis team
* What observations to make, questions to ask, and questions to avoid
* How to record and report what you have learned to your development
team members
* How to turn the information you've gathered into design ideas
* How to create paper prototypes of your interface design
* How to conduct usability tests with your prototypes to find out if
you're on the right track

This book includes many examples of design successes and challenges
for products of every kind.

2) A Practical Guide to Usability Testing (revised edition),
by Joseph S. Dumas and Janice C. Redish
Intellect Books,
ISBN 1-84150-020-8
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

The back cover of the book says:

In <this book>, the authors begin by defining usability, advocating
and explaining the methods of usability engineering and reviewing many
techniques for assessing and assuring usability throughout the
development process. They then take you through all the steps in
planning and conducting a usability test, analyzing data, and using
the results to improve both products and processes.

Written in plain English and filled with examples from many types of
products and tests, the book discusses the full range of testing
options from quick studies with a few subjects to more formal tests
with carefully designed controls. The authors discuss the place of
usability laboratories in testing as well as the skills you need to
conduct a test. Included are forms that you can use or modify to
conduct a usability test and layouts of existing labs that will help
you build your own.

The first edition, published in 1993, received much acclaim and has
been recognized to be an insight into this field not matched
elsewhere. This revised edition adds context with an additional
Preface, updated References and rewritten Appendices as the subject of
usability testing heads towards the new millennium, but the authors
have confidently maintained the text of the original in this edition
as it still provides what people working and researching in this area

Ian, there's lots of Web sites about those topics. This one is

(BTW, that "2" behind the www is not a typo)

Ginny's e-mail address is redish -at- ari -dot- net -dot-


In times of change, learners inherit the earth,
while the learned find themselves equipped
to deal with a world that no longer exists.
~~-Eric Hoffer


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