The experts at The Usability Team have conducted literally thousands of product reviews in their careers. They have worked in all different vertical markets, with a variety of platforms and technologies, and with all different types of products. Whether it be a mainframe database interface, the newest mobile device or MP3 player, an e-commerce website, or a desktop application, chances are we've reviewed many other products in the same domain.
Expert reviews are a great way to establish a baseline measurement of your product's usability. We provide detailed descriptions of the usability defects we find, along with recommendations for how to fix those defects. Expert reviews are also a great way to develop focus areas for subsequent usability tests, whiteboard design sessions, or even guidelines and standards development. One way that The Usability Team differs in our approach to reviews is how to communicate the severity of the defects we find. Severity calculations only mean something when compared to the severity of other items. Who is to say how "high" a high severity usability defect is, or what the risk of NOT making a design change is? The Usability Team measures severity in terms of dollars and cents. In some cases, not implementing a proposed improvement will result in a portion of revenues not being realized. In other cases, leaving a bad design in place will lead to loss of revenue, increased support burden, even professional liability. We crux all our rating of severity in terms of "value at risk", so you know where to best spend your redesign dollars.
An Expert Review is a multi-faceted activity. We use a variety of industry-standard practices tailored to your specific product, system, or concept. Others may refer to it as "cognitive walkthrough", "heuristic evaluation", or other jargon. Our expert review, simply put, is putting our expertise to work to find possible usability defects, quality problems, or marketing misfires. We then make a determination of the problem's severity, and make a few recommendations that *might* fix those defects. The real answers to the problems can only be determined through testing a design with actual users, but the Expert Review is a quick way to look for areas that might benefit from more research.
How Long Does it Take?
An expert review takes as much time as your product is complex. Using a website as a metaphor, we might measure this in "number of screens". A typical review proceeds using the following timeline:
We typically deploy an expert review for existing products very early in the Plan phase, because it can give critical insight into the current state of the product's usability. However, in some cases, we might also perform an expert review during design and development to make sure that the implementation of the product has not introduced any usability defects.
The most important questions that an Expert Review answers are:
The Usefulness Characteristic
Investing in an Expert Review by the Usability Team will augment all three areas of the Usefulness Characteristic. Besides the inherent Usability aspects of this service, the problems we look for in an expert review also cover such Quality issues as implementation, platform, customizability, installation and updates. Finally, we can increase the Market Fit of your product by reviewing the marketing plan for the product to make sure that your target market, go-to-market strategy, deployment plan, pricing structure, and other items have no flaws.
Would you like an informed, unbiased review of your product?
The Usability Team is not in your target market and we are not experts in your industry, but we know a good deal about software design.
Give us a couple of days with your product and we'll tell you what we think. You will be glad we did.
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Scott Butler and Richard Gunther. All rights reserved.