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Forensic Usability

Your software is going to be usability tested - that is something you can't control. What you can control is when this testing occurs: before development, before release, before success - or - after failure. But how do you reallocate existing resources to improve your software's usability? The mantra "usability is good" yields few clues. Instructive texts on "best practices in usability" do not provide guidance on what to do first.

Usability identifies problems customers have using a software product. Forensic usability digs deeper to explore root causes. All usability problems can be tied back to poor design decisions. The root cause explains why the necessary information was not considered when the decision was made. With the root cause identified, conditions for making design decisions can be optimized, thereby improving all future decisions.

This talk illustrates through specific examples how forensic usability can point the way to improving existing software products and processes - and is fascinating detective work.

About the Speaker

Jan Moorman's career has centered on effective communication of technical information. This focus is a common thread connecting illustration, scientific visualization, decision support systems, interface design and usability engineering. In the last twelve years Jan has completed research for the Army Corp of Engineers, Motorola, National center for supercomputing applications and Schlumberger. She has contributed to commercial and internal software products for Trilogy, Nationwide Insurance, Intuit and Travelocity. She has been profiled by Computer Research Association for Women, and in the Computer Graphics Companion to the Encyclopedia for Computer Science. She holds a Master's Degree in Computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana. She can be reached at jmoorman@acm.org.