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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.


More standards

I was looking for a standard report format, and guess what? This year ISO have produced a standard for a Common Industry Format (CIF). There's a good site linked to from usability.gov (of course... ) from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology - http://zing.ncsl.nist.gov/iusr/ and ISO have approved it as standard 25062:2006.

This is really good for work. The only catch is that it is aimed at summative testing, rather than formative. So we're going to need to define metrics for testing. That's actually a good plan, as it'll give us a good, repeatable way to compare the proposed design to the current. Nice for feeding back to the stripes, and gives it all a more... ummm... scientific feel (for want of a better phrase!).

It'll be good to be able to tell them we're adhering to ISO standards too. Lends the process more credibility and should give us more ammo against the resistance to change!



Part of our preparation for the next seminar is to research the Usability Standards. Useful for work too.

Although this is still a relatively young area, ISO have started producing standards. There's the 13407:1999, which is a standard for the process of User-Centred Design, and looks really handy for our work project. It follows an iterative structure, and I think we've got most of it covered in our plans as it stands. I might see if we can get a copy at work. Then there's loads of sections of ISO 9241 that apply.

In the meantime, Usability Partners (http://www.usabilitypartners.se/usability/standards.shtml) have a pretty good brief overview of the relevant standards, and related ones for further info. There's a much more detailed view on usabilitynet.org (http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/r_international.htm), once you've got a feel for what you need to find out.

Standards are obviously really handy for allowing people to know what they are going to get from a usability review. It also allows an identification of 'best practice' and provides some kind of framework.

I still need to find some kind of report format though.


Librarian Interview

Well, it took me a while, but I finally managed to get hold of a librarian to talk to! People aren't kidding when they say stakeholders can be hard to pin down. Only managed over the phone, but better than nothing.

It was a bit of a rushed interview - she had to run off to open the library - but I did get some interesting info. It definitely backed up our findings through other methods, in that a lot of the things we are suggesting were things that she had on her wish list. Nice to get some validation on those, to know we aren't coming in from a totally unexpected angle perhaps.

The interview was tricky. I had a list of prepared questions, but due to how short the interview was I had to prune them a lot to get the most relevant information. I think that's a really important thing to remember in future. I'd written them down by area of information, and it would have made it easier to reorder in list of importance. Plus guiding the conversation without trying to be too leading was really hard! It would have been nice to do it face to face, but working in Burgess Hill makes it that much harder to say pop over in a lunch hour to talk.

I can see it's a very useful thing to do, but I can also see how it can get squeezed out of the process! I mean, it would have been good to maybe get some feedback from some of the other libraries too, from the homework clubs maybe, but there just aren't enough hours at the moment!


personas, scenarios and requirements

We've used personas and scenarios in the seminar. It was really useful to actually try using them. We were struggling to see the relevence in our group, with just making a person up and then a story using them. It wasn't until we thought about the story a bit harder that you suddenly start noticing the problems. Because you're highlighting a common usage, you can start to say 'how are they going to manage that bit then?' or spot operations where you've got them using three hands or things. We'll definitely be creating some of these for our library review.

I'm still not really clear on how to document and store these findings. This is really relevant for work at the moment. We have to keep producing things, to demonstrate progress to the rest of the team, but how? How do we translate these things into 'proper' and formal requirements reports?


Further demographic trouble

We've had a little bit of a setback on our project.

We want to use teenagers. There's so much in the library for them, and so little on the webpage. But after we got asked to get permission to interview them in the library last Thursday, we've had a further knock by being told we can't approach anyone under 16, and because we can't risk accidently asking anyone under 16 their age we're not to ask any teenagers within the library.

Which is an arse. Knew I should have got CRB-checked last season with cricket instead of just self-declaring. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? All that these things prove is that you haven't been caught yet...

Anyway. We have had an emergency group emailing session about this. We've decided that we have enough teenage relatives and friends to continue with the demographic, although obviously this does limit the range of backgrounds etc we'll manage to get.

This is definitely something to bear in mind for future projects! Legislation is important.