6 April 2011

About unnatural user research and limits to usability

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UX Matters
Two new articles on UX Matters:

User research Is unnatural (but that’s okay), Part I
by Jim Ross
From the perspective of a participant, user research is not very natural. We ask participants to try to act naturally in the artificial environment of a lab, or we impose ourselves on their environment and hope our presence doesn’t affect their behavior. We often forget how unnatural user research can be and what effect it can have on participants.

Part II: Making user research more natural
To minimize the negative effects of these unnatural aspects of user research and get more realistic results, there are many things we can do to keep user research as natural as possible.

There should be limits to usability
by Peter Hornsby
People generally regard improving the usability of products or systems as a major part of our role as UX designers. While there are tradeoffs in all aspects of design, our assumption has generally been that products and systems that are easier to use are preferable to those that are harder to use. However, despite what seemed to be a common understanding, a number of articles have recently reported on research that suggests increased ease of use can be detrimental. This column examines the research underlying these conclusions and looks at some lessons UX designers can learn from them.

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