Nursing Informatics

Usability Tests (Reading & Sharing Cont.)

  • Heuristic Evaluation or Heuristic Inspection Methods
    • the most popular of what are called “discount usability evaluation”
      • because they are typically easy to do, involve fewer than 10 experts, and are much less expensive than other methods.
    • the objective is to detect problems early in the design process, when they can be most easily and economically corrected.
    • they are called “heuristic” because evaluators assess the degree to which the design complies with recognized usability rules of thumb or principles, such as those proposed by Nielsen (1994) (retrieved from
      1. visibility of system status
      2. match between system and the real world
      3. user control and freedom
      4. consistency and standards
      5. error prevention
      6. recognition rather than recall
      7. flexibility and efficiency of use
      8. asthetic and minimalist design
      9. help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
      10. help and documentation

  • Simplified Usability Tests using early prototypes
    • use of small numbers of users, typically an early prototype (even paper), and a specific method called “think aloud” protocols
    • use early and often during any design or redesign process
    • Nielsen (1994) recommends having 5 users talk aloud or “think aloud” as an observer watches them an records any issues. And this process can detect as much as 60-80% errors
  • Cognitive Walkthrough -usability inspection method/ task analysis
    • evaluators assess a paper mockup, working prototype, or completed interface by observing the steps users are likely to take to use the interface to accomplish typical tasks.
    • it consists of a detailed review of a sequence of real or proposed actions to complete a task in a system.
    • typically helps designers determine how understandable and easy to learn the interface is likely to be for the users and the tasks
    • The method uses think aloud techniques to elicit users’ though processes while using an existing product.
    • a cognitive walk-through can include videotaping and audiotaping, allowing a structured evaluation for informaticists to record findings and track problems.
    • It typically used early in the systems life cycle to identify issues with prototypes and initial designs.

  • Formal Usability test
    • use either experimental or observational studies of actual users using the interface to accomplish real-world tasks
    • Example: conducting a usability study of a prototype electronic medication administration record:
      • participants were asked to add, modify, or discontinue medications using the system.
      • the time they needed to complete the task, their accuracy in the task, and their satisfaction with the prototype were assessed (may by using satisfaction questionnaires)

  • Field study
    • end users evaluate a prototype in the actual work setting just before its general release
    • ideally, every healthcare setting would have a usability laboratory of its own to test new software and technology in its own setting before actual implementation


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