MSU Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting (UARC) is a worldwide leader in conducting research to improve the experiences of a diverse range of users on websites, mobile apps, software, and other technologies. UARC works with clients from business, government, academia, and community organizations, and collaborates with faculty and researchers from a variety of disciplines on grants. UARC specializes in accessibility compliance evaluations against international standards, accessibility policy and strategy, and user experience methodologies, including usability evaluations, expert reviews, user focus groups, information architecture redesigns, and surveys. UARC is a department of University Outreach and Engagement.
We employ User-Centered Design (UCD) techniques to evaluate technology products. The ultimate goals of UCD are to develop easy-to-use products that lead to increased user satisfaction and meet your organizational or business objectives. UARC focuses primarily on analysis of user requirements, conceptual design of technology products, and usability evaluation.
What is UCD?
UCD is a philosophy that places the user at the center of the design and development process right from the very beginning when the product is still in the conception phase and checking at every step of the way with potential users to be sure they will be comfortable with the final design.
NOTE: Although UCD is the ideal process for product development, it presupposes that you employ it right from the very beginning. If you have already begun development or are at the final stages, doing some product evaluation is better than doing none and it will yield very useful user feedback, which you can incorporate into the product design before launch.
Components of UCD
Usability and accessibility product evaluation are two critical components of the user-centered design (UCD) process.
Usability - Measures the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which users achieve specified goals:
- Effectiveness - Can users complete tasks, achieve goals with the product, do what they want to do?
- Efficiency - How much effort and time do users require to achieve their goals?
- Satisfaction - What do users think about the product's ease of use?
Accessibility - Enhances Web sites, Web applications, software, and other products to ensure that they are understandable and navigable for users of all abilities.
- User Requirements Analysis
- Work with product team to decide on product goals from the perspective of the user and the organization/business
- Determine the user needs and target usability requirements
- Conduct expert evaluation (heuristic evaluation) of existing product user interface
- Perform a Web accessibility compliance evaluation
- Perform a competitive analysis
- Perform user interviews and surveys
- Conceptual Design, Prototypes, and Evaluation
- Work with the design and development team to sketch out a high-level product design
- Rapidly create visual representations (mockups) or interactive representations (prototypes) of the product.
- Evaluate usability through focus groups, front-end concept evaluation, and walkthroughs
- Use the evaluation results to create more mockups or improve the prototypes
- Repeat this process (design iteration) until the design and usability goals are met
- Design and Implementation
- Work with the design and development team to revise user interface based on concept evaluation
- Create the user interface using standards-compliant code
- Design for accessibility
NOTE: Since development is not the primary focus of the UARC, we work with the department of Communication and Information Technologies within the Office of University Outreach and Engagement and other organizations to coordinate and support the work in this stage.
- Usability Evaluation
- Conduct the on the final design
- Conduct an accessibility compliance evaluation based on Section 508 standards and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (for Web sites and Web applications)
- Work with the design and development team to improve the product based on evaluation results
- Repeat this process (production iteration) until the organizational/business goals are met
- Launch and Maintenance
- Document everything
- Continue to collect feedback from users/customers to improve the product in future releases