How Heuristic Evaluation & Customer Council can help improve product design
Tookitaki is a player in a complex domain with few competitors. Anti-money laundering software backed up by artificial intelligence is even new. How do you bring in User Experience to such an evolving software, where real users are still experimenting with what they need?
One of the established methods to improve the user experience and user interface is the Heuristic Evaluation. Rolf Molich and Jakob Nielsen had put forward a set of Heuristics in 1990. These Ten heuristics serve as a broad rule of thumb:
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Consistency and standards
- Error prevention
- Recognition rather than recall
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
A software application is measured against the above ten heuristics by an expert in the subject of Human-Computer Interaction or someone with extensive experience in the domain of user experience & usability engineering. The measurement is done through a severity rating scale which befits the complexity of the software application.
As we can see here, a Heuristic Evaluation is product oriented and done by one expert at a time.
Participatory Heuristic Evaluation
To do a wider evaluation, Michael J. Muller, Lisa Matheson, Colleen Page, Robert Gallup in their article Methods & Tools: Participatory Heuristic Evaluation, proposed three additional heuristics and an involvement of subject matter experts or real users that can be easily recruited. These three heuristics, in addition to the 10 above, are:
11. Skills. System should support, extend, supplement, or enhance the user’s skills, background knowledge, and expertise.
12. Pleasurable and Respectful Interaction with the User
13. Privacy. System should help the user to protect personal or private information.
Both the above methods can cover the overall user experience, minute details of user interface elements, as well as visual design of an application.
For the last two weeks, I have been working on a Heuristic Evaluation for AMLS TM, and have already found some issues which are fairly high on the severity rating scale. I would classify this activity as Participatory Heuristic Evaluation, as I have taken direct or indirect feedback from a Designer, Front-End Lead Engineer, and Product Manager.
We now know about how one expert and a small group of experts can help in optimizing the user experience of a product. Let’s now look at the next level of involving a greater number of real users – Customer Councils!
I had my first experience with Customer Councils in Autodesk when I was the lead UX designer for a year-long Agile project. As and when my project progressed, I had the chance to interact quickly with users, which helped me to validate the interaction design and usability of specific software features.
Now, what exactly is a Customer Council?
Customer Council is a set of users who are recruited as part of a forum. A user researcher will interact with this set of users to gather early and continuous feedback that can help to improve a product.
• Online community with 50-75 users depending on the complexity of a product.
• Users are very carefully selected based on their domain knowledge and experience.
• Users are not paid to become a council member. But when they are engaged for any usability or evaluation or survey session, they will be compensated.
• A particular Customer Council for a product could last for several months or a year.
• Secured, a customized website is created that can host:
o Bios & photos of the product team and Customer Council members
o Webinars to introduce new functionality and get opinions from members with quick polls
o Discussion forums to initiate discussions on particular topics
o Sharing of any special requirements or situations from members
o Structured usability sessions with alpha/beta release of product
o One-on-one informal interviews
The gist is that the more user or subject-matter-expert involvements we have, the closer we come to build a successful product!