Project : A-PLUS Architect (browser-based tool for usability evaluation in software design)

Tasks : design, research, user testing

Client : ABB (R&D collaboration)

Completed : Nov 2009

Challenges : A-PLUS Architect furthered my work on Usability-Supporting Architecture Patterns (USAPs). The challenge was to create a tool that would help software architects in industry evaluate the usability of their software architecture designs for several usability scenarios at once. Scenarios included supporting different types of user and roles, different hardware environments, and notifying end users of alarms and events with varying levels of priority and response.

Solution : For an entirely new take on USAPs, I designed A-PLUS Architect, a browser-based tool that allowed software developers to review their software architecture designs against USAPs that supported multiple specific usability requirements. The design was implemented by the ABB R&D team, with look and feel of the implementation under their control. I user tested the prototype with software architects at ABB on a product line architecture they were developing, and later iterated on the design to make usability improvements and improve the look and feel.

Results : In 6 hours of user testing, the architects uncovered 14 major issues with their system design. They calculated that one day of using the A-PLUS Architect prototype had saved them 5 weeks of work later in the design process!

Heirarchical organization of USAPs

User interaction with USAPs checklists

Phrasing information for software architects

Redesign to improve usability