Web Analytics

“Web analytics, sometimes referred to as Web statistics or technographic research, are a form of quantitative analysis that uses concrete metrics to track user behavior online.” (Visocky O’Grady. A Designer’s Research Manual. p 50)

User Surveys

User surveys are a means of finding out how the software or web site is likely to be used by a specific set of users, and who these users are likely to be.
“User Surveys”. UsabilityNet. 2006. http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/surveys.htm

User Interviews

User Interviews provide directional design input in order to elicit the goals and needs of the user by focusing on how they perform their current tasks independent of the specific product being developed.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 75)

Use cases

Similar to scenarios, “use cases also focus on user goals, but the emphasis here is on a user-system interaction rather than the user’s task itself.”

Triad Interviews

Three people who are either similar to each other or are different in a specific way, interviewed by a moderator following an outline or lightly scripted guide, usually for about an hour.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 25)

Thinking Aloud

Thinking aloud (Nielsen, 1994), may be the single most valuable usability engineering method. It involves having a end user continuously thinking out loud while using the system.

Test Plan for Usability Testing

The Usability Test Plan describes the goals, method, and approach for usability test. The test plan includes several different components, from profiles of participants to an outline of a discussion with users.

A simplest test plan consists of a set of goals, a description of the logistics and methods and a set of questions to ask the participants.

(Communication Design, Dan Brown p49,p52 2006)

Task Analysis

Task analysis analyses what a user is required to do in terms of actions and/or cognitive processes to achieve a task. A detailed task analysis can be conducted to understand the current system and the information flows within it.
“Task Analysis”. UsabilityNet. 2006. http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/taskanalysis.htm

Surveys & Questionnaires

“Survey research is a tactic for collecting quantitative information by asking participants a set of questions in specific order. Questions are administered to a sample of individuals, representative of a larger population.”(Visocky O’Grady. A Designer’s Research Manual. p 48)

Super Group Interviews

Fifty to hundred or more people are gathered in a large auditorium to view ideas, products, designs or other exhibits presented on a large screen.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 25)

Subjective Assessment (testing & post-release)

Subjective assessment tells the evaluator how the users feel about the software being tested. This is distinct from how efficiently or effectively they perform with the software. The usual method of assessment is to used a standardised opinion questionnaire to avoid criticisms of subjectivity.


Storyboarding is a technique borrowed from film making and cartooning. Each step in an interaction, whether between the user and the system, multiple users or some combination thereof.
Contextual Design: Defining Customer-centered systems, Beyer & Holtblatt, 1998


Scenarios are paradoxically concrete but, rough, tangible but flexible, they implicitly encourage “what-if?” thinking among all parties. They permit the articulation of design possibilities without undermining innovation. Scenarios compel attention to the use that will be made of the design product. They can describe situations at many levels of detail, for many different purposes, helping to coordinate various aspects of the design project.

(Carrol. Making Use: Scenario-based Design of Human-Computer Interaction)

Retrospective Testing

Additional “testing” after-the-fact. After a user testing session has been conducted and videotaped, retrospective testing is reviewing the tape with the user to ask additional questions and get further clarification.

Requirements Meeting

A workshop attended by users and developers who identify usability requirements that can be tested later in the development process.
“Requirements Meeting”. UsabilityNet. 2006. http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/requirements.htm

Remote Testing

Remote usability testing is used when tester(s) are separated in space and/or time from the participants. This means that the tester(s) cannot observe the testing process directly and that the participants are usually not in a formal usability laboratory.


Psychographics is a quantitative tactic used to measure subjective beliefs, opinions, and interests.
(Visocky O’Grady. A Designer’s Research Manual, p 47)

Pilot Test

Before any actual evaluation sessions are conducted you should run a pilot test as a way of evaluating your evaluation session and to help to ensure that it will work.
(Stone, Jarret, Woodroffe, Minocha. User Interface Design and Evaluation p503)

Photo Ethnography

A person is given a camera and asked to capture images of his or her life and describe them with the accompanying notes.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 27)


Personas are user models that are presented as specific individual humans. They are not actual people, but are synthesized directly from observations of real people.
(Cooper. About Face 2.0, pp 55-74 X)

Personas are archetypical users with specific goals and needs based on real market and design research.
(Laurel. Design Research, MIT Press, 2003. p 75)

Performance testing

Performance testing is a rigorous usability evaluation of a working system under realistic conditions to identify usability problems and to compare measures such as success rate, task time and user satisfaction with requirements.
“Performance Testing”. UsabilityNet. 2006. http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/testing.htm

Party Group Interviews

A group of people who all know each other gather together in one person’s home and spend 2 to 3 hours conversing with each other and the moderator on a chosen topic.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 25)

Participatory Design

Participatory Design can be broadly defined as a movement to improve the relationship between technology and people. Participatory Design was created by the Scandinavian Collective Resources group, which created a process for inserting workers into processes for the design and management of their own workplaces.
Forlizzi, Jody. “The Product Ecology:
Understanding Social Product Use and Supporting Design Culture” International Journal of Design. 2008. http://www.ijdesign.org/ojs/index.php/IJDesign/article/view/220/143

Paper Prototyping

A paper prototype is made up of interface elements sketched on different pieces of paper so that various application states and screens can be shown without redrawing the interface each time.
(Designing the Obvious, Robert Hoekman jr., p43)

Online Probes

Design probes are tools for understanding human phenomena and exploring new design
opportunities. Probes can for example be diaries with questions and tasks for every day.
N?kki, Virtanen. Utilising social media tools in user-centred design.

One on One Interviews

One person interviewed by a researcher who’s is following a tightly scripted guide or a loose outline. Duration my range from 20 minutes to 1 or more hours.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 25)

Observational Research

Observational research is the systematic process of viewing and recording human behavior and cultural phenomena without questioning, communicating with, or interacting with the group being studied.
(Visocky O’Grady. A Designer’s Research Manual, p 34)

Mockups (Paper)

Paper mockups are slightly higher-quality (although still fairly rough in comparison to the end product), rapidly rendered representations of your major design decisions.
(Brinck, Gergle. Usability for the Web, p 218)

Mindmap (Idea Generation)

Mindmapping is a technique that helps people trigger inactive parts of their brains by sketching structures from complex information and the organizing of ideas (It can also be seen as a visualization technique).
(Bots et al. Idee?n voor creativiteit. p 55)


User performance is almost always measured by having a group of test users perform a predefined set of test tasks while collecting time and error data.

Marketing Mix (Four P's)

Also known as the “Four P’s”; product, price, promotion, place are “a set of controllable tactical marketing tools that the firm blends to produce the response it wants in the target market. The marketing mix consists of everything the firm can do to influence the demand for its product.” (Kotler. Principles of Marketing. p 33)

Market Segmentation

“Dividing a market into distinct groups of buyers with different needs, characteristics or behaviour who might require separate products or marketing mixes.” (Kotler. Principles of Marketing, p 31)

Market Positioning

“Arranging for a product to occupy a clear, distinctive and desirable place relative to competing products in the minds of target consumers. Formulating competitive positioning for a product and a detailer marketing mix.” (Kotler. Principles of Marketing, p 31)

Literature Review

“A literature review is a comprehensive investigation of all documents, publications, articles, and books regarding a specific area of study. This first step in the research process can also include a client’s corporate communications, as well as those of their competitors.” (Visocky O’Grady. A Designer’s Research Manual. p 24)

Interface Design Patterns

Interface design patterns are solutions to frequently-occurring problems and situation in the design of interfaces. The end users and the implementation teams conceptualise the interfaces in terms of interface design patterns.

High-Fidelity Prototypes

High-fidelity Prototypes, which are based on software, provide a functional version of the system that users can interact with.
(Stone, Jarret, Woodroffe, Minocha. User Interface Design and Evaluation p120)

Heuristic evaluation

Heuristic evaluation is a form of usability inspection where usability specialists judge whether each element of a user interface follows a list of established usability heuristics. Expert evaluation is similar, but does not use specific heuristics.

GOMS Model

The GOMS Model represents the procedural knowledge required to operate a system in terms of the user Goals, basic actions or Operators, Methods, which are sequences of operators that will accomplish goals, and Selection rules, which determine which method to apply to accomplish a goal.

Forcing Functions

“A forcing function is a constraint where the user ‘is forced’ to complete a task based on a limited, paired down set of features or controls.” (Spillers. Forcing Functions)

Focus Groups

Focus Groups are a social science tool used prevalently to conduct market research. Focus groups are discussions with a limited number of participants, led by a moderator.
(A Designer’s Research Manual, Visocky O’Grady, p640, 2006)

Flowchart (tasks)

A task-flow diagram (flowchart) is a flowchart that details how a user will compete all the tasks in an application from beginning to end.
(Designing the Obvious, Robert Hoekman jr., p43)

Field Ethnography

A person or group of people are observed by a researcher while they go about their normal lives. The duration of these observations can range from 1 hour to several days or weeks
(Laurel. Design Research, p 27)

Expert Review

A expert usability review provides an immediate tactical analysis of the user experience of your Web site, Web application, GUI application, or Intranet.

Experience Prototyping

Experience Prototyping is a form of prototyping that allows shareholders on a design team to understand existing and future conditions through engagement with prototypes.
(Buchenau, M., & Fulton Suri, J. Experience prototyping. In Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Designing Interactive Systems pp. 424-433)


This is a very young but rapidly growing variation that marries digital ethnography focused on daily activities and small details of cultural significance with a futures perspective that looks at the major trends influencing and changing culture as a whole.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 27)

Essential Use Cases

“Essential use cases represent abstractions from scenarios, i.e., they represent a more general case than a scenario embodies, and try to avoid the assumptions of a traditional use case.”
(Preece. Interaction Design. p 230)

Digital Ethnography

A more recent variation on traditional ethnography, using digital tools to speed up the the process without compromising the quality of the work.
(Laurel. Design Research, p 27)

Design Comics

“Design comics are a type of storyboarding used in product and web site design. Design comics include product consumers or other characters in an illustrated story that shows how the users interact with the product.”(Wikipedia “Design Comics”)

Demographic Research

A classification according to a set of demographic and geographic variables such as age, race, education, income and location.
(About Face 2.0 Alan Cooper p53, 2003)

Cultural Probes

Cultural Probes were developed as a design-oriented way to acquire inspirational glimpses of communities targeted for design. (Boehner, Vertesi, Sengers & Dourish, 2007; Gaver, Dunne & Pacenti, 1999).

Critical Incident Technique Analysis

The Critical Incident Technique is an open-ended retrospective technique of finding out what users feel and identify the critical features of the software that is being evaluated. It is more flexible than a questionnaire or survey and is recommended in situations where the only alternative is to develop a questionnaire or survey from the start.

Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry involves collecting detailed information about customer work practice by observing and talking with the user about the work while s/he works, in the normal context of the work. The researcher ought to stay on the background and let the user lead the situation as much as possible. This means that the researcher tries to form a partnership with customer i.e. learning (but not doing) as an apprentice while the customer is the master of the work. This helps the researcher to understand the customer’s work. The goal is to understand how and why something is done or why something is not done. (Beyer & Holtzblatt, 1998)

Contextual Design

Contextual Design is a user-centered design process developed by Hugh Beyer and Karen Holtzblatt (1998). It incorporates ethnographic methods for gathering insights relevant to the product, field studies, rationalizing workflows, system and designing human-computer interfaces. In practice this means that researchers aggregate data from customers in the field, where people are living and applying these findings into a final product.

Competitor Analysis

“Competitor analysis is the process of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s competitors.” (Visocky O’Grady. A Designer’s Research Manual. p 22)

Coaching Method

This technique can be used for usability test, where the participants are allowed to ask any system-related questions to an expert coach who will answer to the best of his or her ability. Usually the facilitator serves as the coach.

Co-discovery Learning

During a usability test, two test users attempt to perform tasks together while being observed. They are to help each other in the same manner as they would if they were working together to accomplish a common goal using the product. They are encouraged to explain what they are thinking about while working on the tasks.

Card Sorting

The card sorting technique is a very useful approach to understand what natural categories people have for the domain. It is especially appropriate when the designer is not a domain expert and needs the insight of the users or when several alternative organisations are possible. (Brinck, 2003, p. 138)

Affinity diagramming

Affinity diagramming is used to sort large amounts of data into logical groups. Existing items and/or new items identified by individuals are written on sticky notes which are sorted into categories as a workshop activity. Affinity diagramming can be used to:

  • analyse findings from field studies
  • identify and group user functions as part of design
  • analyse findings from a usability evaluation

Acceptance Tests

“For large implementation projects, the customer or manager usually sets objective and measurable goals for hardware and software performance. Acceptance tests are a set of test cases specified for the software, with possible response-time requirements for the hardware/software combination.” (Shneiderman, 2005, p. 162)