Wednesday, March 28, 2007


That is a Human Usability Interaction Experience User Information Interface Factors Designer Engineer Architect Researcher. If it's not the same jobs having different names, it's a job that is eating up other jobs. Information Architecture a culprit? (Explained in Joshua Porter's Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture and Part 2.)

The field of study/work I'm interested in has some seemingly unsettled terminology. Is it Human Computer Interaction (HCI) or Computer Human Interaction (CHI)? HCI more accurately reflects the goal of being human-centric but saying "H.C.I." is sort of a mouthful while saying "CHI" (like "kai") is easy. Then there's the hyphenation issue Human Computer Interaction or Human-Computer Interaction?

Also, I am becoming confused lately as to whether I'm working on the "usability" of something or the "user experience" of it. For sure, the two can't be cleanly delineated (if I understand them correctly). Usability of something can be enhanced by improving the user experience, as noted by Don Norman in his book Emotional Design. Likewise, the user experience can be enhanced by improving usability. However, if I had to choose, I'd say that it might make more sense that user experience could be improved by usability enhancements than the other way around.

I recently read two blog posts describing what the authors think the difference is between user experience and usability. Jared Spool, mentions in his article The Difference Between Usability and User Experience:

Usability answers the question, “Can the user accomplish their goal?”

User experience answers the question, “Did the user have as delightful an experience as possible?”

which seems quite in line with the more humorous explanation in Marc Hassenzahl on User Experience:

Usability [with its focus on effectiveness and efficiency] wants us to die rich; user experience wants us to die happy.

Hrm, shouldn't we die rich and happy? Anyway, I think those two articles are helping me to understand the difference.

Remote Usability Studies

I like to call it usability study instead of test. I worry that "user test" makes the participants/users (not "subjects") think that they're being tested when actually the product is being tested. Conducting a "study" sounds more like no value judgments are being made. Strictly business, my friends.

Recently, I've been looking into remote usability solutions and I'm still looking around but here's what I discovered so far: my colleagues and I are using Macs without IE and that is not helping our search. There were two appealing products specifically designed for remote user studies. However, TechSmith's UserVue is Microsoft Windows-only and Bolt | Peter's Ethnio requires Microsoft Internet Explorer. Boo!

I found some interesting presentation slides from Paul Hibbitts on "Usability at a Distance" and at the same time discovered there is a YouTube for slides, SlideShare. Of course when anything serious about presentations is involved, Guy Kawasaki's name should be dropped somewhere along the way.

What my colleague and I ended up using for a 1-hour remote user study session were the following:

  • Video
    • Yugma for viewing the user's screen broadcast over internet.
    • iShowU for recording my screen (including the screen broadcast).
  • Audio
    • Skype with SkypeOut for calling in to the phone conference line provided free by Yugma.
  • Editing
    • Quicktime Pro for cropping audio and video and then manually synchronizing the two.

The overall result was pretty smooth and not too troublesome. I'd prefer less troublesome but we still managed to glean a solid stack of data from the session.

There's also this neat site Remote Online Usability Testing Wiki hosted by Bolt | Peters User Experience. Thank goodness the URL is only -- phew. There's a nice list of remote usability-specific tools but most of them aren't products as much as they are services with products. I've got my eyes on ClickTale. I hope they let me try the Beta soon.