I have been asked to run a 0.5 day training course into 'usability' for a client and I am trying to distil all my years of experience into something non-rambling and simple; something that captures the basics of usability. Here's my agenda so far:

realtime review of their website: homepage layout; information architecture and navigation; consistency and standards; visibility of system status; task orientation; form design; search

basics of usability: what makes something useful, learnable. Why most microwave oven interfaces suck

how to prototype; types of prototypes
how to test; types of test; how to run a user testing session

I've only got 3.5 hours to cover all this so its a bit of an ask. I'm looking for any advice from anyone who has had to run such a wide ranging course in such a short time frame. And any other tips would be greatly appreciated . I have hours of teaching experience behind me btw so presenting isnt a problem for me.


target audience are inexperienced web team from another company. They need to become skilled in enough UX to be able to incorporate practically into development. They can't afford to continually contract out. They need the absolute essentials.

  • Who is the target audience ? Is the output management awareness of usability - or being able to run a user testing session ?
    – PhillipW
    Nov 17, 2011 at 11:39
  • The latter then - the sort of nuts and bolts stuff... Though I think a small dose of 'theory' intially helps.
    – PhillipW
    Nov 17, 2011 at 14:10

3 Answers 3


Not an easy situation, and there is a lot that you could cover. Therein lies the biggest problem. If you try cover everything that they should know, you're going to lose them in the volume.

Decide what 3 concepts are the most important for them to get fully, and then stick to those three. Then let them experience the concepts rather than you just telling them what they are.

Let them try perform a task with two (or more) different sites / applications / objects which they haven't used before. Time them. Make it a competition. Let them see which one performed better. Then you can have a meaningful conversation about why that is the case and about what makes the winning site / application /object better usability wise.

Usability has to be understood by experience for people to get it. So give them the experiences that will help them get it.

  • yes: the three basic concepts I will cover is: how to prototype, how to test, how to evaluate an interface using 5 basic metrics. Sound ok?
    – colmcq
    Nov 17, 2011 at 12:10
  • @colmcq: If you keep them to the basics of each I think it will be doable. You still should cover by doing not just by telling.
    – JohnGB
    Nov 18, 2011 at 9:22
  • I want to include 2 hours min of pure practical work
    – colmcq
    Nov 18, 2011 at 11:33
  • @colmcq: Sounds like a good plan. Just break the 2 hours up into smaller blocks so that you have practical and theory together. Often it's good to do the practical before you explain the theory though.
    – JohnGB
    Nov 18, 2011 at 12:21

I always go over the door handles example.

It's the easiest way for people to 'get' the concept of affordances.

And it's memorable because (for a change) they're not looking at software.

  • yes, I saw that somewhere else and I like.
    – colmcq
    Nov 17, 2011 at 12:09

I would definitely show some footage from a usability test session. This does couple of things: it demonstrates how do to usability testing and reminds that there can be actual evidence instead of just opinions about whether user interface is usable. If the test participant happens to be having a hard time, it also shows that the reason for doing design is to help someone do something.

Also it would do to remind everyone that when someone is having trouble using their design the most likely reason is that there is a problem with your design. While you can't please everybody, the user is higher than you in who to please scale.

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