How many words do you have for user data?
Interface designers today are swirling within a blizzard of data. How many types of user data does your Web team collect?
Analytics such as drop-off rates, click stream logs, Google search analysis, and FAQ access provide insights into how users move through an interface (or don't). Webmaster email offers insight into the things user's are seeking in the words they can't find. User surveys can provide a broad array of data constrained only by the survey design and (sometimes) the mood of the survey participant. Talk-aloud-protocol usability testing provides a running play-by-play of users' expectations, successes, and frustrations within a specific task space.
Each of these data streams seems to provide a slightly different perspective on the user experience. Which data stream or combination of data streams is most effective to drive interface improvement and increase user satisfaction?
Recent work by Kelkar and colleagues suggests that the choice depends on the level of improvements you wish to make to your interface.
Their study looks at data collected from a usability test of a Web-based application (WebCT). It compares the relative impact of collecting performance data to collecting performance and process data on the resulting design recommendations.
For Kelkar and colleagues, performance data focuses on whether users can do the task. It includes measures such as:
Process data is comprised of observations about what users are doing during task completion. This can include both objective and subjective measures, such as:
To measure the relative impact of the different types of user data, Kelkar and colleages conducted a series of Usability Test/Redesign stages.
In Stage I of the experiment, designers derived design improvement recommendations based strictly on performance measures of usability, including time-on-task, error rates, and overall task completion rates.
After the interface had been re-implemented to integrate the design recommendations, Kelkar and colleagues conducted Stage II.
In Stage II, designers derived improvements based on performance measures enhanced by process measures. The process measures including eye-movement-within-task data and retrospective review/verbal analysis of decisions and actions made during task completion.
The interface was re-implemented a second time to integrate the design recommendations resulting from the process + performance data.
A third round of usability testing measured the improvements to the user experience resulting from the Stage II recommendations.
Kelkar and colleagues found an interesting difference between the recommendations generated by just performance versus performance + process data.
Recommendations based on performance data resulted in an increase in task completion and a reduction of errors. This is not surprising, since the relatively descriptive performance data focused the design team on specific points of breakdown in the task flow, but provided little perspective on experience at the task level.
Recommendations based on performance + process data resulted in increased task efficiency and increased overall satisfaction with the interface.* Collecting either direct (think aloud/retrospective verbal analysis) or indirect (eye-tracking) data provides greater insight to the user's expectations and anticipated task flow. Access to the user's mental model allows designers to identify and minimize gaps between the user's model and the site-interaction model.
This work suggests that the various data streams focus designers on different opportunities to improve the user experience. If the goal is to increase both task completion and perceived ease-of-use, then the collection of process data is critical. This data provides direct insight into the users' expectations and mental task model.
* It is important to note that process data would also likely yield recommendations that resulted in reduced errors and increased task completion, but in this experimental design, the opportunity to see/evaluate those recommendations may have been eclipsed by the Stage I / Redesign / Stage II model of the experiment.
Kelkar , K., Khasawneh, M., Bowling, S., Gramopadhye, A., Melloy, B. and Grimes, L. (2005). The Added Usefulness of Process Measures Over Performance Measures in Interface Design. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 18(1), 1-18.
"Often the biggest value of usability work is a change in process, strategy, or psychological positioning." Indeed, beyond the realm of 'usability' this is the biggest design gap for all business activities/interactions. How might we focus more work/discussion in this area?
Sign up to get our Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox
HFI may use “cookies” or “web beacons” to track how Users use the Website. A cookie is a piece of software that a web server can store on Users’ PCs and use to identify Users should they visit the Website again. Users may adjust their web browser software if they do not wish to accept cookies. To withdraw your consent after accepting a cookie, delete the cookie from your computer.
HFI believes that every User should know how it utilizes the information collected from Users. The Website is not directed at children under 13 years of age, and HFI does not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under 13 years of age online. Please note that the Website may contain links to other websites. These linked sites may not be operated or controlled by HFI. HFI is not responsible for the privacy practices of these or any other websites, and you access these websites entirely at your own risk. HFI recommends that you review the privacy practices of any other websites that you choose to visit.
HFI is based, and this website is hosted, in the United States of America. If User is from the European Union or other regions of the world with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law and User is registering an account on the Website, visiting the Website, purchasing products or services from HFI or the Website, or otherwise using the Website, please note that any personally identifiable information that User provides to HFI will be transferred to the United States. Any such personally identifiable information provided will be processed and stored in the United States by HFI or a service provider acting on its behalf. By providing your personally identifiable information, User hereby specifically and expressly consents to such transfer and processing and the uses and disclosures set forth herein.
In the course of its business, HFI may perform expert reviews, usability testing, and other consulting work where personal privacy is a concern. HFI believes in the importance of protecting personal information, and may use measures to provide this protection, including, but not limited to, using consent forms for participants or “dummy” test data.
HFI may use personally identifiable information collected through the Website for the specific purposes for which the information was collected, to process purchases and sales of products or services offered via the Website if any, to contact Users regarding products and services offered by HFI, its parent, subsidiary and other related companies in order to otherwise to enhance Users’ experience with HFI. HFI may also use information collected through the Website for research regarding the effectiveness of the Website and the business planning, marketing, advertising and sales efforts of HFI. HFI does not sell any User information under any circumstances.
HFI may disclose personally identifiable information collected from Users to its parent, subsidiary and other related companies to use the information for the purposes outlined above, as necessary to provide the services offered by HFI and to provide the Website itself, and for the specific purposes for which the information was collected. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information at the request of law enforcement or governmental agencies or in response to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to establish, protect or exercise HFI’s legal or other rights or to defend against a legal claim or as otherwise required or allowed by law. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information in order to protect the rights, property or safety of a User or any other person. HFI may disclose personally identifiable information to investigate or prevent a violation by User of any contractual or other relationship with HFI or the perpetration of any illegal or harmful activity. HFI may also disclose aggregate, anonymous data based on information collected from Users to investors and potential partners. Finally, HFI may disclose or transfer personally identifiable information collected from Users in connection with or in contemplation of a sale of its assets or business or a merger, consolidation or other reorganization of its business.
If a User includes such User’s personally identifiable information as part of the User posting to the Website, such information may be made available to any parties using the Website. HFI does not edit or otherwise remove such information from User information before it is posted on the Website. If a User does not wish to have such User’s personally identifiable information made available in this manner, such User must remove any such information before posting. HFI is not liable for any damages caused or incurred due to personally identifiable information made available in the foregoing manners. For example, a User posts on an HFI-administered forum would be considered Personal Information as provided by User and subject to the terms of this section.
Information about Users that is maintained on HFI’s systems or those of its service providers is protected using industry standard security measures. However, no security measures are perfect or impenetrable, and HFI cannot guarantee that the information submitted to, maintained on or transmitted from its systems will be completely secure. HFI is not responsible for the circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures relating to the Website by any Users or third parties.
Human Factors International, Inc.
PO Box 2020
410 W Lowe Ave
Fairfield IA 52556