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Usability Evaluation Glossary Terms

  • A/B Testing
    Determining which of two alternatives is better received by the target audience.
  • Acceptable margin of error
    Consideration for the number of acceptable errors in an experiment; a smaller margin of error indicates trustworthy results and a larger margin of error means the results are less consistent.
  • Analysis paralysis
    Overanalyzing or overthinking a situation or subject to the point that decision making is delayed.
  • Benchmark testing
    Testing against a set of standard best practices or past performance metrics.
  • Card sorting or Card sort
    A method used to identify categories that are inherent in a set of items. The goal of card sorting is to understand how a typical user views a given set of items. Card sorting can be done manually by writing items on individual paper cards, and then asking users to group together similar cards. This also can be done using many different software systems. The grouping information from all card sorters is then combined and analyzed using cluster analysis software. See Also Open & Closed Card Sort
  • Cascading menu
    A menu structure where submenus open when the user selects a choice from a menu. Cascading menus are particularly useful in hierarchically-complex Web sites.
  • Cascading style sheets (CSS)
    Code that defines how to display HTML elements in externalstyle sheets that enable you to change the appearance and layout of all the pages in a Web site by editing one single file.
  • Case Study
    Analysis of a group, person or event to explore causation or determine underlying principles.
  • Check box
    A control element that a user can click to turn an option on or off. When the option is on, an X or 3 appears in the box. Check boxes are conventionally used when users may select one or more items from a list of items.
  • Clickability cues
    A visual indication that a given word or item on a Web page is clickable. Cues that can be used to indicate the clickability of an item include color, underlining, bullets, and arrows.
  • Closed Card Sort
    A card sort exercise where participants are grouping content topics or "cards" into predefined categories. [See Card Sort and Open Card Sort]
  • Cognitive load
    The amount of mental effort it takes to understand something.
  • Cognitive walkthrough
    An inspection method for evaluating the design of a user interface, with special attention to how well the interface supports exploratory learning, i.e., first-time use without formal training. The evaluation is done by having a group of evaluators go step-by-step through commonly used tasks. It can be performed by evaluators in the early stages of design, before performance testing is possible.
  • Collaborative design
    Inviting end users to work with designers and researchers to provide and feedback on design ideas.
  • Concept testing
    A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of gathering user responses to a new product.
  • Confirmation bias
    Selective thinking in which one has the tendency to search for or interpret information that coincides with their existing beliefs or ideas.
  • Context effect
    The influence that environmental factors have on users' perception of a stimulus.
  • Contextual inquiry
    A research study that observes how users interact with equipment and interfaces in their own environment.
  • Conversion rate
    Percentage of visitors that complete a targeted transaction online
  • Corridor testing
    Informal or ad hoc test or solicitation to gain quick user feedback or data
  • Diary Study
    Research method that involves providing participants with the materials and structure to record daily events, tasks and perceptions around a given subject in order to gain insight into their behaviour and needs over time.
  • Direct user data
    The feedback that comes from a face-to-face research method such as a one on one interview or focus group.
  • Effective
    Measure or description of how accurately a goal can be accomplished.
  • Efficiency
    Measure or description of how quickly and easily a goal can be accomplished.
  • End Users
    Refers to those people who use a website or those who are participants or subjects of research studies.
  • Entry field
    The entry field, which is also known as a data or text entry field, is employed when users are required to make text or data entries, including keywords, commands, quantities, etc.
  • Environmental profile
    A snapshot of the external circumstances of users that may impact the pursuit of their interaction goals.
  • Error analysis
    A part of task analysis that identifies the frequency and type of errors that occur for each specified set of task flows.
  • Error of commission
    An error in which a user attempts to complete a task incorrectly.
  • Error of omission
    An error in which a user misses a specific task or step.
  • Error rate
    Frequency in which errors occur in a given time period.
  • Error recovery
    The ability for a user to correct and continue to pursue their goal or complete a task.
  • Ethnography, or ethnographic research
    A holistic qualitative study of users in the context of their actual environment over a period of time.
  • Expert evaluation or Expert review
    See Heuristic evaluation.
  • Eyetracking or Eye Tracking
    Specialized hardware & software which track users' point of vision on an interface to understand where their visual attention is focused while viewing an interface.
  • Facilitated workshops
    Collaborative session that facilitates communication between developers and users to discuss aspects of an impending interface, also known as a Joint Advisory Development (JAD) session.
  • Facilitator
    A researcher role that works with a person or group to moderate a discussion or activity in order to collect feedback and information.
  • Feedback message
    A message confirming to the user that an action has been completed successfully.
  • Field labeling
    Serves to describe the purpose and function of form elements.
  • First-Click Testing
    A testing method to see what visitors click on first on a website.
  • Focus Group
    A focus group is a pointed discussion with a group of participants that a moderator leads through a set of questions on a particular topic to obtain feedback about users, products, concepts, prototypes, tasks, strategies, and environments.
  • Font readability
    How easy or difficult it is to read a collection of words in a specific type style.
  • Font size
    The height of a font measured in points.
  • Formative testing
    Testing the design early in development to inform and verify design decisions. The results are leveraged to further refine and form the interface or product.
  • Free Listing
    A data collection technique to gain user insight for a specific domain or topic by asking people to list all the items they can think of that relate to the topic.
  • Function Allocation
    In human factors, determining responsibility for performing a given function to humans or technology within a given system.
  • Gap analysis
    An evaluation technique used to demonstrate the difference between the desired state and the current state.
  • Global navigation
    A means to access primary content or functions from every page
  • Help text
    Information incorporated into a web page that advises users how to perform an action or provides complementary information pertaining to the content.
  • Heuristic evaluation/Expert review
    An inspection method for finding certain types of usability problems in a user interface design. Heuristic evaluation involves having one or more usability specialists individually examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles. These usability principles are the "heuristics" from which the method takes its name.
  • High-Fidelity Prototype
    An interactive prototype that simulates the real system or site's functionality and design details. [See also Low-Fidelity Prototype]
  • Hover help or Tool tip/Tooltip
    Usually a smaller box with information that appears or pops up if a user puts their mouse over a designated graphical element or text.
  • Human Factors
    The multidisciplinary study of human biological, physical, psychological, and social characteristics in relation to environments, objects and services.
  • Human Factors Engineering (HFE)
    Applying what is known about human capabilities and limitations to the design of products, processes, systems, and work environments. It can contribute to the design of any system with a human interface, including hardware and software.
  • Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
    The study of interaction between people (users) and hardware, software, websites and mobile devices. It involves computer science, behavioral sciences, design and other fields of study.
  • Hybrid navigation model (hybrid structure)
    A combination of navigation structures incorporates some combination of components possibly including sequential and/or hierarchical IA designs.
  • Industrial Design or Product Design
    Design of consumer products that considers usability, human factors, ergonomics, and appearance while still maintaining function.
  • Interviews
    One-on-one interactions between end-users and researchers to gather data about the conceptual model or design of a system.
  • Iterative testing
    A methodology in which a product is tested and changed repeatedly at different stages of design/development to eliminate usability issues before the product is launched.
  • Learnability
    How easy or difficult it is to learn to effectively use a system or interface.
  • Likert Scale
    A response range for a type of survey question in which a person is asked to rate their reaction to a statement along a scale. The scale typically runs from a positive rating to a negative rating with a neutral score in between.
  • Longitudinal Study
    A study conducted over a period of time to analyze the long-term effects of changes in products, processes or environment.
  • Low-Fidelity Prototype
    Low cost, illustrated design or concept usually sketched on paper or created as flat images. [See also high-Fidelity Prototype]
  • Mental map or model
    The user's conception of the structure of the web application. The closer the users mental model is to the functionality of the site, the higher the site's perceived usability.
  • Minesweeping
    An action designed to identify where on a page links are located. Minesweeping involves the user rapidly moving the cursor or pointer over a page, watching to see where the cursor or pointer changes to indicate the presence of a link. [See also Mouseover]
  • Moderated usability testing
    Usability testing with the active participation of a facilitator or moderator.
  • Open Card Sort
    A card sort exercise where participants are grouping content topics or "cards" into categories and then namong ot labeling the categories. [See Card Sort and Closed Card Sort]
  • Optimal path
    The system's most efficient and effective way to accomplish a task.
  • Pagination
    Dividing information into separate sequentially numbered or linked pages.
  • Paper Prototyping
    A prototyping method in which paper models are used to simulate computer or web applications.
  • Parallel Design
    A design methodology that involves several designers pursuing the same effort simultaneously, but independently, with the intention to combine the best aspects of each for the ultimate solution.
  • Performance data
    Data used to measure how easily or completely a user did a task.
  • Performance objectives
    The goals set for user behaviors on an individual Web page or a series of Web pages. These objectives usually are stated in terms of the time to correctly select a link, the overall accuracy of selecting links, the average time to select a target page, etc.
  • Performance test
    A usability test that is characterized by having typical users perform a series of tasks where their speed, accuracy and success are closely monitored and measured.
  • Persona
    The creation of a representative user based on available data and user interviews. Though the personal details of the persona may be fiction, the information used to create the user type is not.
  • Plain language
    Clear and succinct communication written to ensure readers can understand the information as quickly and completely as possible.
  • Preference data
    Information that is gathered about a user's perception and feelings about the experience.
  • Preference objectives
    The goals set for user attitudes toward individual Web pages or an entire Web site. The objectives are usually set and measured using questionnaires. These objectives include information concerning user acceptance and user satisfaction.
  • Prototype
    A preliminary model or archetype of a web page or website used to demonstrate or test the user experience and various task flows. [See also Low & High Fidelity Prototypes]
  • Qualitative Research
    The study of human behavior that focuses on context and observations rather than numerical data or statistics.
  • Quantitative Research
    The study of human behavior that focuses on numerical data and statistics.
  • Rapid Prototyping
    Quickly generating mockups of what a system will look like to facilitate internal review or testing.
  • Rating Scales
    A range of numbers in a sequential order that respondents use to assign a value to a given subject.
  • Readability
    The degree to which users can easily and accurately read information on a web page
  • Representative sampling
    Choosing a group of participants that represent your target audience
  • Responsive Design
    A web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience across platforms and devices.
  • Scanability
    How easy it is to read and understand a body of text.
  • Scanning
    An information-retrieval method whereby users look quickly through a Web page looking for target information (headers, keywords, etc.). Scanning can be a quick and efficient information-retrieval method if Web pages are designed to accommodate scanning.
  • Scenarios
    Hypothetical circumstances used to frame and prompt the user to follow or pursue a particular task path.
  • Screener
    A questionnaire used in recruiting to ensure participants meet a defined criteria and are part of the targeted audience.
  • Scroll stopper
    A graphic or other page element that may visually impede a user from scrolling to the true top or bottom of a page. Misplaced headers, horizontal lines, or sections of text in very small fonts may act as scroll stoppers.
  • Skip Navigation / Skip Logic
    Allows you to create custom paths based on previous actions or answers
  • Split site studies
    Creating two versions of the same website and testing them against each other
  • Statement of work (SOW)
    A contract document that states work activities and tasks used for project planning and management
  • Survey or questionnaire
    Questionnaires sent out to target audiences to collect data from individuals about certain topics or experiences
  • System Usability Scale (SUS)
    SUS is a technology independent ten item scale for subjective evaluation of the usability.
  • Target audience
    The set of users for which a system is designed or intended.
  • Target page
    The location in a site where a user will find the information they are seeking. [See also Destination page]
  • Task
    A procedure that includes goals, steps, skills, start state, inputs, end state, and outputs to accomplish an activity.
  • Task analysis
    A method used to identify and understand the activities to be performed by users when interacting with a Web site.
  • Task depth
    The number of levels in a hierarchal structure.
  • Task flow diagrams
    A representation of the various tasks and their interrelationships on a site.
  • Task profile
    An overview of a task and all of its characteristics such as frequency, importance and flow.
  • Task scenario
    Narrative description of how and why a user would interact with an interface.
  • Think-aloud Protocol
    The process by which a test participant narrates their testing experience with not only what they are doing, but why they are doing it.
  • Usability
    How effectively, efficiently and satisfactorily a user can interact with a user interface.
  • Usability evaluation or assessment
    A variety of techniques for measuring usability.
  • Usability lab
    A space designated for conducting usability tests by observing user interactions with a system and recording their activities. Additional observers may be present or may observe via two- way mirrors or video streaming in another room.
  • Usability testing
    Usability testing includes a range of test and evaluation methods such as automated evaluations, inspection evaluations, operational evaluations and human performance testing. In a typical performance test, users perform a variety of tasks with a prototype (or an operational system) while observers note what each user does and says and performance data are recorded. One of the main purposes of usability testing is to identify issues that keep users from meeting the usability goals of a Web site.
  • Use case or User scenario
    A document describing critical tasks to be accomplished by the user, or actor, or persona which outlines the specific sequence of actions needed to achieve the goal, as well as alternative sequences.
  • Use Experience (UE, UX)
    A broad term for several disciplines that study the effect of design on the ease of use and level of satisfaction with a product, site or system.
  • User research
    The study of the user's reactions to and interactions with a system.
  • User-Centered Design (UCD)
    An approach to designing a product or service (e.g. user interface design), in which the end user is placed in the center of the process.
  • Wireframe
    A highly simplified sketch of the important information in a page. Also known as page architecture, page schematic, or blueprint