Evaluating Usability

Evaluating Usability

Users expect applications for Windows Media Center to be very simple and intuitive to use—like their televisions, not their computers. As enhancements to home life, these applications are enjoyable but optional. If an application is too difficult to learn or use, the user may simply quit using it.

Usability evaluation is a key activity in designing the user interface for your application. It is nearly impossible to be immersed in application development without forming at least some false assumptions and misconceptions about how users will respond to and use the finished product. Evaluation almost always leads to important discoveries about usability and creates opportunities for valuable design improvements. Plan to include usability evaluation in your budget and schedule and to conduct usability studies several times during design and development.

If you do not have the time or budget to conduct full lab evaluations with real users, you can still gain some of the benefit and spot potentially serious usability problems by conducting "discount" usability studies. Discount studies are conducted from the user's perspective, but are done by members of the product team who pose as users. The following topics give a brief description of two such techniques, along with tips to help maximize effectiveness.

TopicDescription
Usability Lab StudiesProvides tips on how to set up a usability lab and how to conduct a study.
Cognitive Walk-through ProcessDescribes how to test your application using team members.
Heuristic Evaluation ProcessDescribes a quick method of evaluating a user interface by using heuristics.
Reviewing Your Windows Media Center ApplicationProvides a checklist of questions to ask yourself during the development process.

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