Jordi Sánchez

What can others learn from the origins of, thinking behind, and design of your technique or tool?: 

 

UCDmanager is a FREE collaborative web application aimed to manage and document different User-Centered Design and usability techniques, in an integrated manner: user roles, personas, heuristic evaluations, usability user testing, etc.

 

UCDmanager (http://ucdmanager.net) is my HCI Master Degree thesis, and it has two main sources:

  • Most of my professional career has been working as a ‘usability team of one’, planning and performing different techniques. Looking for tools, I realized that all I could use were basically word-processing or spreadsheet templates, but they weren’t the best way to achieve some features of a real user-centered design process: collaboration; iteration; … And what about re-utilization of resources? Some elements were the same through different techniques and/or iterations: same issues, same evaluated items, same experts …So I started by developing a tool based on Microsoft Access to manage and document different techniques and reuse some of their documentation; that was a prototype which allowed me to develop an initial shared data-model for some common techniques. But I needed a more robust and ‘shareable’ platform…
     
  • At the same time, I started to perform some research about User-Centered Design and its formal definitions, trying to define what it is exactly and what techniques it actually includes. That work drove me to write an article about UCD (in Spanish: http://www.nosolousabilidad.com/articulos/dcu.htm) where I concluded that it’s a quite fuzzy term, but has some well-established features (user-oriented; applicable during all the stages of development; iterative; multidisciplinary; usability oriented); after that, I propose a minimum set of techniques that will make it easier to apply UCD during development of software.
     

So UCDmanager is an approach trying to integrate both ideas: a practical tool aimed to manage techniques in an integrated way, and whose techniques form themselves a minimal set of UCD methods, useful and applicable during different stages in most software development processes.

 


 

What insights, outcomes, information, etc. does your tool or technique have the capacity to generate or illuminate that might have been harder or impossible to arrive at using existing tools and techniques?: 

 

UCDmanager stimulates collaboration: inside the UX team, with developers, with clients, etc. All the information used and generated during the different techniques is easily available and reusable, even while it’s being written, trying to avoid those beautiful documents and reports that are written and never used again.

The integration between different techniques is really important. For example, when performing several iterations of usability evaluations, it’s important to know which issues were detected in previous iterations and whether they have been addressed or not. Also, the results of some techniques may be a source for other ones; for example, use cases should be an important reference when defining tasks for usability tests; or user roles can be taken into account when recruiting users for those tests.


 

 


 

How broadly can the results and outputs of your tool or technique be applied, and what are the limits of their validity and applicability?: 

 

The techniques supported by UCDmanager are quite common and well-known, so they can be applied to almost any development process:

  • User roles
  • Abstract (essential) use cases
  • Personas
  • Usability heuristic evaluation
  • Usability thinking-aloud user testing
  • Web accessibility conformance evaluation
     

Anyway, it can be especially useful in projects where multiple usability techniques are being performed and/or several people are involved: UX team, developers, customers, etc.

 


 

Please provide one or more concrete examples of how your tool or technique has positively affected the design and success of a product, service, or other experience.: 

 

UCDmanager is (still) a personal academic work and it hasn’t been used in big development projects. I have used it to document some personal projects, and I know it has been used in education. It needs more real-work testing and feedback.

As an extra, I have also developed a Windows 8 app ( http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/app/ucd-user-centered-design/df2605bb-...  ) which gets data from UCDmanager and shows it as a repository of information about UCD.

As a side-effect, UCDmanager can be used as a repository of heuristics, guidelines and good practices (as long as they can be used in usability evaluations). For example, I have included some new heuristics I have proposed:

  • Psychological Usability Heuristics (published by UX Magazine)
  • Rich web applications usability heuristics
  • ‘Top lists’ as heuristics for simple usability evaluations


You can see them between the heuristics available for usability reviews at 
http://ucdmanager.net/technique/usability-heuristic-evaluation


 

How might your tool or technique serve as the inspiration or starting point for future innovations?: 

 

In order to make UCDmanager a more commercial and attractive tool, it requires more work on its visual design (as a management tool, it was not my priority); I’m aware of that. This tool is more oriented towards the management and documentation of techniques; it would be useful to have some kind of integration with other existing tools aimed to execute particular techniques (for example, prototyping or usability testing). It could be achieved through APIs, importing/exporting data, etc.

Finally, its architecture allows to easily implement other techniques that might be required by its users, although previous work would be required in order to detect the best way to achieve integration with existing techniques (for example, identifying common elements). I think that effort towards the integration of methods would be of great value in order to transform UCD into something more than a box of independent techniques.