Introduction to Volume 6, Issue 4

Issue 4 is the final one for Volume 6 of the journal. I expect that Dennis Wixon’s invited editorial will generate lively reaction. Dennis argues that the usability profession has largely ignored one of the key components of usability engineering: establishing quantitative usability goals early in product development. Those goals can enhance scenarios and use cases and stimulate development teams to conduct early and iterative testing, which are often cited as essential to creating a successful user experience but seldom practiced.

The first peer-reviewed article by Alla Keselman and her colleagues focuses on the usability evaluation of 3-D virtual worlds. Their study includes an analysis of the applicability of some of the traditional evaluation methods to complex, dynamic virtual worlds and of the need to modify or find analogues for other methods. In their empirical pilot study they explore the results of their analysis and show that it is possible to assess the usability of Second Life applications.

Daniel Perry and his colleagues conducted a comparison usability test among five programmable thermostats. The objective of the study was to use the data generated from the comparison to develop standard metrics that Federal agencies such as the EPA and DOE can use to measure the usability of thermostats. The metrics had to be quantitative to be credible with both Federal and industry organizations and directly applicable to any programmable thermostat.

Xristine Faulkner and Clive Hayton conducted a test in which web-based navigation menus were placed on either the left or right-hand side of the page. The data show no difference in time to buy between the two locations. The authors challenge the convention that navigation menus should be on the left-hand side of a webpage and suggest that there may be some advantages to placement on the right-hand side.