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User Research Glossary Terms

  • 3-click rule
    The theory that users will abandon a website if they are unable to complete their task within 3 mouse clicks.
  • 80/20 rule
    Based on the Pareto principle, applied to any website, web app, or software environment tells us that 20% of the functionality and features in any one environment will be responsible for 80% of the results, or actions taken within that environment.
  • A/B Testing
    Determining which of two alternatives is better received by the target audience.
  • Active listening
    Interviewing technique in which the interviewer pays attention, shows acknowledgement, and provides feedback to encourage the conversation.
  • Active voice
    Active voice makes subjects do something (to something). For example, in "Jill selected the link," the verb "selected" is in the active voice.
  • Analytics
    See Web analytics
  • Benchmark testing
    Testing against a set of standard best practices or past performance metrics.
  • Case Study
    Analysis of a group, person or event to explore causation or determine underlying principles.
  • Competitor analysis
    An assessment of the relative strengths or weaknesses of competitor products or organizations.
  • Context of use analysis
    A method for determining the salient characteristics of an application by collecting and analyzing detailed information about the intended users, their tasks, and the technical and environmental constraints.
  • Conversion rate
    Percentage of visitors that complete a targeted transaction online
  • 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.
  • Engaging or Engagement
    Capturing the user's attention or interest or maintaining their interaction.
  • 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.
  • Fishbone Diagram
    A diagram designed to identify cause-and-effect relationships between factors in a given situation. It is made up of a "head" which states a problem and bones along the spine which represent factors and categories of factors.
  • Fitts' Law
    A mathematical model that predicts how long it will take to point at a target based on target size and proximity, stating the further away and smaller it is the longer it will take for user to interact with it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gestalt Principles
    People do not visually perceive items in isolation, but as part of a larger whole. These principles include humans tendencies towards similarity, proximity, continuity, and closure.
  • Hick's law (Hick-Hyman law)
    The time it takes to make a decision increases proportionally to the number and complexity of choices.
  • 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.
  • Hybrid navigation model (hybrid structure)
    A combination of navigation structures incorporates some combination of components possibly including sequential and/or hierarchical IA designs.
  • Interviews
    One-on-one interactions between end-users and researchers to gather data about the conceptual model or design of a system.
  • KISS
    Keep it Simple Stupid. A populat principal for encouraging simplicity in the areas of design and engineering.
  • Labeling systems
    The consistent selection and placement of labels that best accommodates navigation.
  • Labels
    Naming conventions for buttons or site navigation.
  • 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.
  • Localization
    Customizing or personalizing a national or international product for a local market.
  • Memorability
    The degree to which users can remember how to use an interface
  • 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]
  • Navigation
    The means by which users to get from page to page on a website.
  • Path
    The route taken by a user as they move through a Web site. The path can be shown by breadcrumbs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Reveals
    Information that automatically appears on the screen during a Web-based slideshow presentation, or while viewing a multimedia Web page.
  • Rollovers
    A state change that involves one element being replaced by another upon the mouse going over it.
  • 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
  • Survey or questionnaire
    Questionnaires sent out to target audiences to collect data from individuals about certain topics or experiences
  • 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.
  • 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