Heuristic Evaluation Including Work Environment Aspects

In the STRIA project we have chosen to study the three most popular methods for collaborating and understanding users in software projects. These are the methods: personas, which describe typical users; a form of user testing called think-aloud method; and a method called heuristic evaluation, where rules of thumb for interface design are considered. In the STRIA project two researchers, professor Åsa Cajander and associate professor, Marta Larusdottir (which is on the photo of this blog post) will lead the work.

The first thing an IT professional has to do when using the Heuristic Evaluation is to select 10 guidelines that he/she thinks are relevant. The method consists of going through the guidelines selected and check if these are fullfilled in the system being evaluated. The person evaluating selects one guideline, like the guideline: “Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors:” and checks if it is easy for the user to understand error messages in the system. So the evaluator, looks through all the system and checks if this guideline is fullfilled. If she finds some places in the system, where the error messages are hard to understand, she notes that down as a possible user problem area in the system. Then she takes the next guideline and goes through the whole interface to check if that guideline is fullfilled. For more information on Heuristic Evaluation, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristic_evaluation

In the STRIA project we want to help IT professionals to include the „bigger picture“ of the users by suggesting changes to the tradional way of defining heuristic evaluation. In this blog we will explain how we aim to do that. This is the third blog in the series of three. The other blogs explain the two other methods: user testing and personas.

Including Work Environment Aspects into Heuristic Evaluation

In the STRIA project we will focus on IT systems in health and medical care. Many of these systems cause both physical and psychosocial work environment problems, but this is rarely considered when developing computer systems. We plan to conduct workshops with users in healthcare and in adminstrative work. We will also we interview the users on their work environment. We will map the digital work environment in health care and in administrative work and look at how the latest technology affects the working environment. We plan to look more closely at automation and artificial intelligence. The results of these studies will be used to make modifications on the traditional heuristic evaluation method. We will make guidelines that include aspects of healthcare and administrative work environment. These modifications will be tried out with students and IT professionals. We will also make educational material, so the IT professionals can learn how to use the new methods.

“Giving IT professionals a new set of guidelines, where the work environment is taken into consideration is a good way of extending their understanding of the complexity that users experience when using various software systems simultaneously. We will base these guidelines on the material we gather both in healthcare and in administrative work. Hopefully will the usage of the guidelines make the work environment better for these groups “, Marta concludes.

(This is the third and final in a series of three blog posts.)

Marta Lárusdóttir

Associate Professor at Reykjavik University
Marta Kristín Lárusdóttir is Associate Professor in School of Computer Science at Reykjavik University and chair of the CRESS research center there.

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