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Jakob Nielsen: Usability methods for building the best application UIs

Jakob Nielsen just released his list of the 10 Best Application UIs of 2008

Here’s what he had to say about how the winners used usability research to build superior products:

Usability Methods: Cheap but Contextual

The winning designs are revolutionary, but there’s nothing revolutionary about the usability methods employed to ensure their quality. The teams used well-known and long-established usability methods that I’ve advocated for decades.

These winning methods deviate from most companies’ usability efforts in two key ways:

  • Most winners used a very rapid approach to usability, emphasizing small-N user testing and paper prototypes to generate user feedback before investing in coding. Several teams squeezed a large amount of usability work into a budget of only 80 hours. This is perfectly reasonable, and proof that good results can come from small investments ‚Äî as long as the designers actually follow the user research findings.
  • Many winners conducted field studies or other forms of contextual research in the workplace. After all, when you’re designing mission-critical software for print shops, you need to move your precious behind out of the office and into some real print shops.