Usability Statements of Work
by Beth A. Martin
Repeated (iterative) usability testing finds problems sooner [see The Value of Iterative Design], and usability engineering helps agencies save money [see How Can I Show That Usability Engineering Saves Money?]. With those ideas in mind, it makes sense that agencies would want to submit their sites and other products to usability testing; doing so is an effective use of taxpayer money, especially with regard to performance measures.
Performance measures and statements of work (SOWs)
When you establish performance measures, you set thresholds that determine whether success is achieved. For example, your agency might determine that at least 90% of users should successfully locate and use the search feature on your site. Or, users should be able to complete an email sign-up transaction in less than one minute.
Similar standards can be set for usability testing when your agency releases a statement of work (SOW); these standards can help determine whether a site or application is ready to be released to the intended users. If not, then additional testing and work are needed before going live.
All of the following SOWs may be downloaded and modified for your agency’s purposes. The General Services Administration (GSA) has a typical usability SOW that includes baseline and redesign segments, which are supported by activities such as user and task analysis, data collection and analysis, information architecture design, and iterative usability testing.
For related usability tasks, you can download these SOWs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service (ERS), provides three sample SOWs for recruiting participants, testing an online data-mapping product, and testing an online statistical data selection tool.