Giving the Human Touch to Software

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How to Determine User Expectations

Your first step should be to understand what types of people form your user group and then determine what they may desire to see in the software. With almost every application, the targeted user or market segment is already decided. If it’s for a single organization, the group of users becomes very specific. If possible, try to interact with them to know what they expect from the application. Get help from the marketing team. They know the targeted customers better than anybody else. To obtain results that suit various users, the usability tests should simulate different user types with varied levels of expectations.

Determining user expectations is not all that easy. The work culture, age, skills, knowledge, computer expertise, pattern of usage, and a lot of other factors contribute to it. Within a known user group, the expectations will also vary, though not very drastically. Different kinds of tests, based on different user types, should be executed to estimate an average type that can be considered for implementation

How It Helps in Usability Testing

When the tester knows his target customer well, it helps him see the application with the user’s eyes and expectations. He can analyze the program as the user would. Predicting user expectations also becomes easier. In order to simulate real-life usability tests, it is necessary to estimate how intelligently the end user will behave with the application.

An application is a valuable and usable tool only when the end user can operate it with ease. In my case, I knew the hotel’s operation, I knew the tasks required of the application, but didn’t know anything about the people who would be using it. Hence I made the functionality flow easily, but failed to make usage flow easily.

When You Can’t Identify a Distinct Group of Users

Internet applications are more of a challenge, with Web sites that provide services to the general public around the world. Determining the expectations of an unknown user base is nearly impossible—but you can try to make the users definite by identifying the broader user bases. It may be that there are a number of different groups, but they must be defined and understood. You should never try to design for a wholly indeterminate set of users. Your marketing team may add some insight, and a human-factors specialist will also help. You should work with a representative user group that varies in terms of profession, age, and qualifications.

For a broad user base, no specific rule can be applied for determining user expectations. Albert Einstein said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This fits well in such a situation. Try to strike a balance in usability by making it moderately simple to suit the requirements of a large percentage of the user base.

User Comments

1 comment
Alexandra Belousova's picture
Alexandra Belousova

It's obviously very important to be able to look at the project by your customer's eyes. Something that seems perfect for you can be seen absolutely unacceptable for them. All trusted software development companies develop projects according to their customers' needs, and Belitsoft (Belitsoft.com) also does the same.

March 4, 2013 - 6:16am

About the author

Yogita Sahoo's picture Yogita Sahoo

Yogita works as a QA/testing professional with Mindfire Solutions and has written a number of articles on QA and testing strategies. Yogita is currently exploring thoughts of beauty as an area of testing and its relation to usability. Her role at Mindfire has been to implement quality processes throughout the organization and build a dedicated testing team. Yogita can be reached at yogitas@mindfiresolutions.com.

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