Project : USAPs (print-based performance aid for usability evaluation in software design)

Tasks : information design, research, user testing

Client : student project

Completed : Aug 2007

Challenge : Designing software to support usability requirements can be a complex task for software architects. Each Usability-Supporting Architecture Pattern (USAP) was intended to give software architects important information about a specific usability issue early in the design process, before any UI design has been done. The challenge was to select the information from a single USAP, which had many parts, and present it in a form that software architects could use in their design process.

Solution : I designed a set of print-based materials that presented a single USAP in a format including three kinds of information: a usability scenario, a list of general responsibilities that software might have to fulfill to support the scenario, and a set of sample solution diagrams. I then designed and performed a pair of experiments to determine whether my USAPs materials helped software engineering graduate students address a new usability requirement in a software architecture design modification task.

Results : The USAP enabled the engineers to do significantly better software architecture design. In fact, the list of general responsibilities alone, as presented, was enough to help produce much better solutions than just the usability scenario. An important result, since the scenario was the type of guidance software engineers often receive as a usability requirement early in the design process.