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Chapter: User Interface Design

Direct –Indirect Methods

The significant advantage of the direct methods is the opportunity they provide to hear the user’s comments in person and firsthand.





·     The significant advantage of the direct methods is the opportunity they provide to hear the user’s comments in person and firsthand.


·     Person-to-person encounters permit multiple channels of communication (body language, voice inflections, and so on) and provide the opportunity to immediately follow up on vague or incomplete data.


Here are some recommended direct methods for getting input from users.



Individual Face-to-Face Interview


·     A one-on-one visit with the user to obtain information. It may be structured or somewhat open-ended.


·     A formal questionnaire should not be used, however. Useful topics to ask the user to describe in an interview include:


·     The activities performed in completing a task or achieving a goal or objective.

·     The methods used to perform an activity.

·     What interactions exist with other people or systems?

·     It is also very useful to also uncover any:

o  Potential measures of system usability

o  Unmentioned exceptions to standard policies or procedures.

o  Relevant knowledge the user must possess to perform the activity.




Advantages of a personal interview are that you can give the user your full attention, can easily include follow-up questions to gain additional information, will have more time to discuss topics in detail, and will derive a deeper understanding of your users, their experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and desires.




Disadvantages of interviews are that they can be costly and time-consuming to conduct, and someone skilled in interviewing techniques should perform them.

Telephone Interview or Survey


A structured interview conducted via telephone.



Arranging the interview in advance allows the user to prepare for it.


Telephone interviews are less expensive and less invasive than personal interviews.


They can be used much more frequently and are extremely effective for very specific information.




It is impossible to gather contextual information, such as a description of the working environment, replies may be easily influenced by the


interviewer’s comments, and body language cues are missing.


Also, it may be difficult to contact the right person for the telephone interview.


Traditional Focus Group


A small group of users and a moderator brought together to verbally discuss the requirements.


The purpose of a focus group is to probe user’s experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and desires, and to obtain their reactions to ideas or prototypes


Setting up focus group involves the following:

Establish the objectives of the session.


Select participants representing typical users, or potential users. o Write a script for the moderator to follow.


Find a skilled moderator to facilitate discussion, to ensure that the discussion remains focused on relevant topics, and to ensure that everyone participates.

Allow the moderator flexibility in using the script.

Take good notes, using the session recording for backup and clarification


Facilitated Team Workshop


A facilitated, structured workshop held with users to obtain requirements information. Similar to the traditional Focus Group


Like focus groups, they do require a great deal of time to organize and run.


Observational Field Study


Users are observed and monitored for an extended time to learn what they do.


Observation provides good insight into tasks being performed, the working environment and conditions, the social environment, and working practices


Observation, however, can be time-consuming and expensive.

Video recording of the observation sessions will permit detailed task analysis.

Requirements Prototyping


A demo, or very early prototype, is presented to users for comments concerning functionality.


User-Interface Prototyping


A demo, or early prototype, is presented to users to uncover user-interface issues and problems


Usability Laboratory Testing


Users at work are observed, evaluated, and measured in a specially constructed laboratory to establish the usability of the product at that point in time.


Usability tests uncover what people actually do, not what they think they do a common problem with verbal descriptions


The same scenarios can be presented to multiple users, providing comparative data from several users.


Card Sorting for Web Sites


A technique to establish groupings of information for Web sites.

Briefly, the process is as follows:


From previous analyses, identify about 50 content topics and inscribe them on index cards. Limit topics to no more than 100.


Provide blank index cards for names of additional topics the participant may want to add, and colored blank cards for groupings that the participant will be asked to create.

Number the cards on the back.

Arrange for a facility with large enough table for spreading out cards.


Select participants representing a range of users. Use one or two people at a time and 5 to 12 in total.


Explain the process to the participants, saying that you are trying to determine what categories of information will be useful, what groupings make sense, and what the groupings should be called.


Ask the participants to sort the cards and talk out loud while doing so. Advise the participants that additional content cards may be named and added as they think necessary during the sorting process.


Observe and take notes as the participants talk about what they are doing. Pay particular attention to the sorting rationale.


Upon finishing the sorting, if a participant has too many groupings ask that they be arranged hierarchically.


Ask participants to provide a name for each grouping on the colored blank cards, using words that the user would expect to see that would lead them to that particular grouping.


Make a record of the groupings using the numbers on the back of each card.



Reshuffle the cards for the next session.


When finished, analyze the results looking for commonalities among the different sorting sessions.




An indirect method of requirements determination is one that places an intermediary between the developer and the user. This intermediary may be electronic or another person


Problems of Indirect Method


First, there may be a filtering or distortion of the message, either intentional or unintentional.


Next, the intermediary may not possess a complete, or current, understanding of user’s needs, passing on an incomplete or incorrect message.


Finally, the intermediary may be a mechanism that discourages direct user-developer contact for political reasons.


MIS Intermediary


A company representative defines the user’s goals and needs to designers and developers.


This representative may come from the Information Services department itself, or he or she may be from the using department.


Paper Survey or Questionnaire


A survey or questionnaire is administered to a sample of users using traditional mail methods to obtain their needs.




Questionnaires have the potential to be used for a large target audience located most anywhere, and are much cheaper than customer visits.

They generally, however, have a low return rate



They may take a long time to collect and may be difficult to analyze.


Questionnaires should be composed mostly of closed questions


Questionnaires should be relatively short and created by someone experienced in their design.


Electronic Survey or Questionnaire


A survey or questionnaire is administered to a sample of users using e-mail or the Web to obtain their needs.


In creating an electronic survey:

Determine the survey objectives.

Determine where you will find the people to complete the survey.



Create a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions requiring short answers addressing the survey objectives.

Keep it short, about 10 items or less is preferable.


Keep it simple, requiring no more than 5–10 minutes to complete


Iterative survey


Consider a follow-up more detailed survey, or surveys, called iterative surveys. Ask people who complete and return the initial survey if they are


willing to answer more detailed questions. If so, create and send the more detailed survey.


A third follow-up survey can also be designed to gather additional information about the most important requirements and tasks

Iterative surveys, of course, take a longer time to complete.


Electronic Focus Group


A small group of users and a moderator discuss the requirements online using workstations.




advantages of electronic focus groups over traditional focus groups are that the discussion is less influenced by group dynamics; has a smaller chance of being dominated by one or a few participants; can be anonymous, leading to more honest comments and less caution in proposing new ideas




The depth and richness of verbal discussions does not exist and the communication enhancement aspects of seeing participant’s body language are missing.


Marketing and Sales


Company representatives who regularly meet customers obtain suggestions or needs, current and potential.


Support Line


Information collected by the unit that helps customers with day-to-day problems is analyzed (Customer Support, Technical Support, Help Desk, etc.).


E-Mail or Bulletin Board


Problems, questions, and suggestions from users posted to a bulletin board or through e-mail are analyzed.

User Group


Improvements are suggested by customer groups who convene periodically to discuss software usage. They require careful planning.


Competitor Analyses

A review of competitor’s products or Web sites is used to gather ideas, uncover design requirements and identify tasks.


Trade Show


Customers at a trade show are presented a mock-up or prototype and asked for comments.


Other Media Analysis


An analysis of how other media, print or broadcast, present the process, information, or subject matter of interest.


System Testing


New requirements and feedback are obtained from ongoing product testing



Requirements Collection Guidelines


Establish 4 to 6 different developer-user links.

Provide most reliance on direct links.

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