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Sometimes software has usability bugs, and you can tell that it ought to be easier to install / maintain / perform a task in it. However, not all software is a one-click smartphone app with simple sliders, for example Apache HTTP Server or Microsoft IIS.

Is there a scale that can help you identify how difficult a task your software solves, and therefore identify which modules are inherently complex rather than usability-poor, and where you have a usability issue that is getting in the way of a complex task?

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2 Answers 2

I would say No, not entirely. There is of course the System Usability Scale which measures:

  • effectiveness (can users successfully achieve their objectives)
  • efficiency (how much effort and resource is expended in achieving those objectives)
  • satisfaction (was the experience satisfactory)

The measurement coming closest to your question would be efficiency that regards the input effort as a parameter - but not quite. In this case I'd say it's a matter of knowledge of the (administrator or super) user. Such a user can't possibly expect that everything is straight forward. You need to know the terminology of the techniques used in the application before you can accomplish advanced tasks.

Still, you should always implement good usability in every sense. Administrators and Super users are equal to all other users when it comes to user experience. Another (often forgotten) technique to use is Context sensitive help would greatly improve the work of IT Professionals worldwide. Today they are often forced to rely on Google search, which results vary in quality and is time consuming.

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employing the SUS and highlighting efficiency may be a good-enough stopgap, I'm leaving the question open for more input, but thanks! my experience is that admins/SUs are not catered for equally, and that's exactly what motivated the question; they are also forced to rely on another neat tool I found called Stack Exchange :D –  d3vid May 10 '13 at 10:37

In simple terms no.

Task complexity can be determined through user testing, preferably using an approach such as contextual enquiry.

All scales will be based upon interpreting the user feedback and if a user can successfully carry out a task. Common 'scales' are series of grades ranging from everyone completes the task with no problems through to tasks which no one can complete.

It is possible to say how many steps a user has to take to complete a task but usability is not always about the least amount of steps. I have heard, several times that the ideal web site has everything three clicks away. In practice it can be twenty clicks providing each click is clear and moves the user visibly towards their goal. It is the quality of the steps, not the quantity.

It is worth also working out the most common tasks and using these as a means to determine how effective any solution is.

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