Usability TestingFor hypertext documents in which the reader/user interacts with a computer system, it is not enough to simply "know your user." Writers and designers need to test their documents for usability by observing audience members using the system. Making changes to the document based on these tests is an effective way of improving the quality of the interface and the effectiveness of the document.
The following syllogism, provided by Jakob Nielsen, clearly demonstrates the need for usability evaluations in hypertext systems:
Human-computer interaction practitioners often evaluate usability according to a general list of parameters. Criteria commonly cited in usability literature which may be of use to writers evaluating the usability of hypertexts include learnability, effectiveness, and pleasurability.
Since the early 1980s
when the concepts of
hypertext and hypermedia
became buzzwords, researchers have been
investigating the usability
and usefulness of hypermedia across a wide
spectrum of domains.
and journals were
launched, and countless
research papers published
the results of theoretical
analyses and empirical
evaluations of hypermedia systems in use.
Then the World Wide Web arrived. Hypermedia has gone global.
Suddenly everyone is a hypermedia designer, making assumptions and decisions about non-linear structuring, users' needs, and the use of different media to communicate.
Do the preceding years of hypermedia usability research have any lessons for authoring, browsing, and retrieving material on the Web?
Are there important differences between the Web and the earlier systems which invalidate past findings?
Is this another case of academic research missing the boat, or have a lot of lessons in fact been learned and disseminated, so that we now see much better hypertexts, and interfaces, than in the early days? (British HCI News 1996)