Thursday, August 05, 2004

5 Mandatory Modes of Usability Analysis

Comprehensive usability evaluation of a product consists of considering the product from various angles.

My usabililty methodology is based on the 5 Mandatory Modes:

1. TELEOLOGY: derived from “telos,” meaning “end.”

The study of ultimate aim or purpose.

*What the customer wants to do with the product.
(Solve a problem, satisfy a need, gain competitive advantage, etc.)

*What the company wants to achieve through the product.
(Increase market share, recognition as innovator, industry leader, provider with high quality/low cost, etc.)

2. PHENOMENOLOGY: derived from “phainomenon,” meaning “to appear.”

The study of things or events as they actually occur, prior to interpretation, as opposed to what “should” occur.

*How the customer wants to use the product to do something.
(Compatibility with other systems, low maintenance, low cost, minimum effort, etc.)

*How the company wants to achieve something through the product.
(Customer loyalty, word of mouth, repeat sales, cross selling, upselling, etc.)

3. ONTOLOGY: derived from “ontos,” meaning “what exists.”

The study of essential properties and relations of things.

*How the product enables the customer to do something.
(Actual hands-on operation in real world environment toward realistic end.)

*How the product enables the company to achieve something.
(Actual performance of product relative to corporate goals.)

4. SEMIOLOGY: derived from “semeion,” meaning “sign.”

The study of how words and images convey a message.

*How the product enables the customer to understand how to use it.
(Owner's manuals, instruction stickers, buttons, warning labels, etc.)

*How the product enables the company to communicate a message to the customer.

5. ESCHATOLOGY: derived from “eschatos,” meaning “furthest,” “last,” or “terminal.”

The study of final things and ultimate judgment.

*How the customer culminates and assesses the use of the product (like/dislike, fun/drudgery, easy/difficult, etc.).

*How the company evaluates product success (customer satisfaction, sales, etc.) and evolves the product (advanced versions, beginner's versions, more accessories, etc.).

NOTE: All usability analyses should ideally view the product from all five of these modes.

To neglect any one of them will result in a partial, and critically deficient, usability status assignment for the product.

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