- Inspection-Based Evaluations
Usability inspection methods (UIMs) are approaches to usability evaluation based on expert inspection of a user interface and the probable user interactions with it. They can be applied to any designed artifact during development: a paper prototype, a storyboard, a working prototype (e.g., in Macromedia Flash™ or in Microsoft PowerPoint™), tested production software, or an installed public release. They are analytical evaluation methods, which involve no typical end users, unlike empirical methods such as user testing. UIMs require only availability of a designed artifact, trained evaluators, and supplementary project/evaluator resources. The resource requirement for evaluation is thus low: UIMs were one of the žrst groups of discount methods within humancomputer interaction (HCI). Their origins as discount methods are important. Their inventors focused on reducing the cost of usability evaluation to a level that they judged to be acceptable for software development projects in the early 1990s. This focus on cost was at the expense of critical re¥ection and systematic scientižc evaluations. Perversely for a user-centered želd such as HCI, there was limited consideration of how evaluators would actually use methods, both cognitively from a perspective of problem-solving behaviors,
strategies and tactics, and socially from a perspective of usability evaluation as work within project contexts. More recently, HCI has focused more on the affective aspects of interaction, and these too now need to be considered when assessing UIMs. It is not enough for UIMs to be better assessed and supported by better advice on their use by evaluators within usability work contexts. UIMs must also “feel right” to evaluators. It is important that evaluators believe that UIMs are helping them to žnd important usability problems and to understand and apply them well enough to be able to recommend effective design changes to remove the problems. It is unrealistic to expect UIMs alone to guarantee high quality evaluation. Interaction design is a complex challenging activity that demands extensive expertise and understanding.