"The engineer's first problem in any design situation is
to discover what the problem really is."
"Try moving usability thinking into our buildings, call centers, forms and
products. It's common sense: If your business is easier to use than your
competitor's, people will be more likely to do business with you. A usable
business is a more competitive business."
— David McQuillen
with software is... it sucks. That's not a nice thing to say... but it is a
fundamental truth. Software customers—you,
me, CIOs of multibillion-dollar companies...have learned to live with
mediocre software. We do not count on software to be intuitively easy to
understand or to work consistently. Instead, we make do.
— Stewart Alsop
We're big believers in the benefits of
usability testing, learnability, user-centered design, and a strong user
experience to ensure people can learn from whatever you've created. If you
design programs for other people to learn from, we encourage
you to review the following articles, books,
websites & resources to introduce you to the theme. This is by no means a
complete list, but some solid places to begin.
There are very few articles about usability as it relates
to learning and training products. We list those we know about. Drop us a
line if you know of others are are interested in interviewing for your
Usability-Tested E-learning? Not Until the Market Requires It
by Ann Quigley. eLearn Magazine (Feb-04-2002) "Rolling
user-centered design techniques like task analysis into e-learning software
development is pretty uncommon on both the corporate training and higher
education fronts.... The idea of e-learning usability is still so new it’s
barely on the market’s radar screen."
10 Tips for Designing Usable E-Learning
Balancing Usability and Learning in an Interface
Designing Web-Based Training: Combining Usability Issues &
Guidelines For Designing Online Learning
Nielsen on elearning "Just how important is usability in e-learning? We
ask usability guru Jakob Nielsen on this and other wide-ranging issues."
Principles of Educational Multimedia User Interface Design
Usability, User Experience, and Learner Experience "Boosters of on-line
learning promote its lower costs, broader accessibility, and personalization
potential. But much e-learning still has slow adoption and high dropout
rates. Online learning leaves many students frustrated or unenthusiastic.
The good news is that concepts and processes for addressing these shortfalls
in learner experience can be found in the field of usability. In this paper,
I outline ways in which the field of usability, properly understood, can
help online learning fulfill its promise."
Usability 101: Helping You Design Better Web Courses
Usability of Training Software
Why People Can't Use eLearning "Unusable interfaces will cost eLearning
companies billions of dollars in lost revenues because many people won’t be
able to use their products."
There are more good articles available on general
Usability Offline by David McQuillen. Darwin Magazine (June 2003) "It
worked for your website. Now try letting usability help you create a more
Testing "Usability testing is the process of working with end-users
directly and indirectly to assess how the user perceives a software package
and how they interact with it. This process will uncover areas of difficulty
for users as well as areas of strength. The goal of usability testing should
be to limit and remove difficulties for users and to leverage areas of
strength for maximum usability."
Basics "Want to impress your visitors? Forget the fancy graphics and
neat technical tricks, just choose the right page width and hyperlink
colors. Here's a basic introduction to the science of usability, drawing on
research, expert opinion, and common features from the Web's most popular
What Does Usability Mean: Looking Beyond 'Ease of Use'
by Whitney Quesenbery. Cognetics.
of usability is sometimes reduced to "easy to use," but this over-simplifies
the problem and provides little guidance for the user interface designer. A
more precise definition can be used to understand user requirements,
formulate usability goals and decide on the best techniques for usability
evaluations. An understanding of the five characteristics of usability –
effective, efficient, engaging, error tolerant, easy to learn – helps guide
the user-centered design tasks to the goal of usable products."
[link updated 4/22/04]]
Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve
Read a chapter from
Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen
Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web
Sites by Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville (Paperback)
About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design Alan Cooper. IDG Books Worldwide,
Design of Everyday Things
Donald A. Norman. Currency Doubleday, 1990 reissue (former title
Psychology of Everyday Things).
Designing Business: Multiple Media, Multiple Disciplines. Clement Mok. Book and CD-ROM, 1996.
Designing Websites With Authority: Secrets of an Information Architect. Jakob Nielsen. 1998.
The Desktop Publisher's Idea Book: One-Of-A-Kind Projects, Expert Tips, and
Hard-To-Find Sources. Chuck Green
The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy
and How To Restore The Sanity. Alan
Interactivity by Design: Creating & Communicating With New Media. Ray Kristof, Amy Satran. 1995
The Invisible Computer: Why good products can fail, the personal
computer is so complex, and information appliances are the solution. Donald A. Norman. 1998.
Memory and Attention: An introduction to human information processing. Donald A. Norman.
& Sons, 1969. <This book is no longer in print, but if you find a copy, get it!>
Bruce Tognazzini. A classic with a wonderful question/answer format.
The Trouble With Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity. Thomas K. Landauer.
The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 1995.
Jakob Nielsen. Very best book on Usability, worth reading often.
Interface Design for Windows
Virginia Howlett. Clearly written, beautifully illustrated.
Websites & Resources
Nielsen shares his thoughts on
usability through a bi-weekly
column on usability issues (alertbox),
as well as reports and books on usable information technologies. Also see
Nielsen on elearning
Boxes and Arrows, a terrific magazine from the Usability
Builder.com is an excellent resource site...great
links, e-newsletters, and articles from authoring to strategy.
Nielsen Norman Group offers both
consulting as well as some good articles and resources
Professionals' Association is an organization for
usability professionals and promotes
usability concepts and techniques
Usability Resources offers a
long list of usability sites, articles, and resources.
Usability Toolkit is a collection of forms, checklists and other useful
documents for conducting usability tests and user interviews."
lists articles and references.
Usable Web has lots of links about web
usability from Keith Instone.
Centered Design Methodology is a food overview of usability,
definitions, evaluating, etc.
Web Developer's Virtual
Library offers useful tutorials on many development subjects.
Web Design Resources is an extensive resource listing from HTML to
graphics, to usability, to style sheets. Educational focus.
Web Pages That
Suck "Where you learn good Web design by looking at bad Web design."
offers scripts, library, HTML resources, style sheets, etc.
WebWord takes a very
broad approach to usability and human factors. John gives you quality
information about everything from the usability of email to reading on the
web to gaining the trust of your users. "