Posted by: bbannan | April 19, 2009

Iterative Development – Monu

In terms of design, iterative processes enable development teams make educated changes while creating a useful and valuable product. Iterations are accomplished by the results from usability testing. Usability testing can prove to be a gold mine in regards to who the audience is, what they value, and how they will use the product.

While conducting usability testing, keep in mind that not all feedback will be objective. This feedback is still an asset as it provides important user experience data which lead to understanding the user’s mental model of the product.
– What is their thought about the product as a tool
– What language are they using
– Were user expectations met or not
The above observations can help prioritize which aspects to focus on for the next iterative process or perhaps the final product. The results from these observations can also lead to specific questions for future usability testing and research.
The Immersion Team has conducted a focus group. Based on the data collected from the focus group we switched gears and came up with another prototype which was later informally shared with a smaller segment of the focus group. We are now on our third iteration as we are now feeling confident that our product is coinciding with the user’s needs as well as satisfy our clients’ requirements.

User research, usability testing and iterative processes certainly are time consuming. However, the ROI is priceless. It’s crucial to know the users, their perceptions about the product, their expectations, their wants, and the language they use to describe a process or idea. The use of definitions and language was interesting for our team to observe. Our client, the users, and sometimes us, would say the same thing but use dated terminology, thus causing unnecessary confusion.

Devshed is an interesting open source website that focuses on website development. The article observes various data analysis stages while designing for the web.
http://www.devshed.com/c/a/Web-Services/Dynamic-Data-Analysis-on-the-Web-a-Design-Approach/

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Responses

  1. Good quick guide to do usability testing. Because comments on interface is biased by previous experience, I would also include questions about previous experience on the tool and similar tools. We just get so used to a certain interface that when something new comes we are resistant to that new design.

  2. You make very good points, Monu. An additional benefit that I’ve found through iterative design/development is that not only do we as designers/developers gather valuable information that helps us create a quality product, the client is better kept in the loop with regards to the development of their product.

    Ultimately, we’re always creating something for a client, and I think it’s easy for design teams to forget that the client has as much invested in the product as we do. Providing a client with iterative reviews of the content being developed helps alleviate concerns that their desires aren’t being included.

    An iterative process helps establish a communication structure wherein the client is consistently included in the development process, and is able to provide his or her feedback throughout the process. Not only do we receive more accurate feedback, but they feel that they are being included in the process, which is invaluable over the course of a training development. I’ve found the best success when I’m able to involve the client as part of the team, and iterative development really helps establish that relationship.

  3. I’ve heard good things about devshed before, but never visited their site. They describe the content so abstractly that it could apply to almost any website. Defining your problem in its most generic terms seems a useful idea: it lets you see the forest, not the trees. It also might help reduce the “dated language” issues you mention.

    [I guess that’s part of their approach to their own web pages: I click on a link, and see the same table of contents, sidebars, etc. I don’t see the text I clicked for until I scroll down.
    We discussed how people browse websites – skimming, not reading (“Don’t Make Me Read”). But this seems a bit too much for my old fashioned habits. When I click a link, I expect to see it immediately, front and center. ‘Don’t make me read… or scroll’. But maybe I’m being too picky.]

    As I read through their design article, I found it interesting that they accomplish with overlapping dynamic data tags what could be more efficiently accomplished with a searchable database. They’re trading browser download speed for server load. I’m not sure everyone has a fast internet connection, but it’s probably not a significant difference either way. The functionality is significant: let the user control the display of data as they want it. This means you must anticipate different user needs, and build them into your design. It also suggests to me that database design, and the mentality it requires, will be helpful for an increasing number of web design and development projects.

    This user-controlled data display built into web pages seems much more doable given the prevalence of CSS. It seems like Web 2.0 mentality is spreading into “traditional” websites, as well. However it’s done, designing to allow more user control of data is a good trend. I’ve bookmarked this site, so I can revisit after the coursework is done. Thanks.


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