Geekspeak: December 4, 2000

By Timothy Dyck  |  Posted 2000-12-04 Print this article Print

Putting Soft Factors To The Test

Making software easy to use involves soft factors such as putting controls and menu options where users most often search for them and providing interfaces that change with each task. One proven way to identify soft factors is through hard research: building a usability testing lab, bringing in users with varying skill levels and videotaping their progress while performing common tasks.

Eazel, the company developing Nautilus, the file manager for the upcoming Gnome 2.0 Linux desktop environment, claims to be the first open-source software company to have a usability testing lab. We applaud Eazel because systematic usability testing has done great things for other software packages. A few years ago, Oracle began performing usability tests, and I reviewed the first package that went through the companys testing lab, Oracles Discoverer reporting tool. The difference from the previous Discoverer release was astonishing.

Timothy Dyck is a Senior Analyst with eWEEK Labs. He has been testing and reviewing application server, database and middleware products and technologies for eWEEK since 1996. Prior to joining eWEEK, he worked at the LAN and WAN network operations center for a large telecommunications firm, in operating systems and development tools technical marketing for a large software company and in the IT department at a government agency. He has an honors bachelors degree of mathematics in computer science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a masters of arts degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.

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