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If a website is in an early requirements gathering phase, to what extent can the usability of this site be advised at this stage?

I understand that achieving better usability comes from further evaluation and iterations post implementation but what more can be done at this initial stage for improving the first version?...

The steps I am taking currently are as follows:

  • Interviews with several end users asking them how they currently operate and their approach to conducting tasks offline or elsewhere online that this site is designed to integrate (sorry I cannot be more specific with details), and trying to find out why they currently do things this way, and identify any pain points

  • Review sites that are doing a similar sort of thing to see what is good/bad about them - e.g. I did a heuristic evaluation of a couple

I originally believed the focus of my work to be strictly usability, that should be channeled through the principles of UCD and interaction design too. More recently I have begun to understand the importance of UX and I'm wondering whether this is a better term for me to refer to in my work.

As I understand the two terms are interrelated in that usability is part of the UX. It would be very useful for someone to make the distinction between the type of recommendations to come out of a usability study and those from a UX study too.

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1 Answer 1

Here is a list of suggestions which might help

  • Find out from your stakeholders who are going to be user base : This is critical not only from the fact that you need to design for that user base but it also gives you valuable inputs on the specific constraints you might have with the user (e.g. you might be designing for elderly people who have a history of suffering from color blindness so aspects like accessibility come in)

  • Gather the requirements : Gather the requirements and sort them into a must have and nice to have list. Also get inputs on how your stakeholders might want to visualize these requirements. E.g. A requirement might be a form which has 20 fields and every field is mandatory. The stakeholder might want it all on one page but this is where you will evaluate aspects such how do we make it usable. Assuming your user base was elderly people as suggested in the previous point, you will also have to account for form accessibility

  • Gather the design guidelines or proposed color scheme : I would recommend doing this as this will give you inputs on how the stakeholders might want to design the site. E.g. Your stakeholders might want you to design a site which uses a cursive font with a lot of white text on a dark background. While that might work for small blocks of text readability will be affected when you are reading large blocks of text. So here is another area where you can make a call about how to improve the usability and design.

  • Ask them for examples of sites they like and the features they particularly like : Though this can serve as a good source of inspiration , you will also need to balance the feature list against your user base requirements and see if the feature can serve the needs of the user. E.g. You might be designing a site for visually impaired people and the stakeholder suggests that you go with a mega menu since they like the idea of one. While Mega menus have their benefits, they are notoriously hard to make accessible and hence you will have to take a call on this.

  • Lastly don't be in a hurry to jump into analyzing UX even in the requirements gathering phase : The requirements gathering phase is a requirements gathering phase. You should focus on trying to understand what your stakeholders and users want instead of jumping to spot conclusions on what should be usable or not. Just note that always weigh and see if a requirement ties in with the final purpose of the site and if could potentially violate any usablity guidelines.

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