Welcome to the first issue of Volume 6 of the Journal of Usability Studies.
With this issue the Journal of Usability Studies reaches an important milestone: it was five years ago this month when we published Volume 1, Issue 1. With the launch of the journal, UPA made a long-term commitment to making a contribution to the user experience community. We were a bit different than other journals in that we focused both on research and practice. We have kept our commitment to speak to all of the members of UPA as well as to the wider user experience community.
We owe a big “thank you” to Avi Parush for his leadership in the conception and execution of the journal over its first five years. He set the tone for how the journal would be managed: all authors, reviewers, and UPA staff were treated with respect. And he made sure that the issues were consistent with the journal’s mission to promote and enhance the practice, research, and education of user experience. Thanks Avi.
We are pleased to have an invited essay by Catherine Courage, who describes her experiences taking on the role of a user experience vice president. She speaks from the heart about the process of interviewing for the job, taking it, her first 90 days, and then becoming established in the job and company. As more user experience professionals move up in their organizations, they will benefit from her wisdom.
The first peer-reviewed article is the eighth in the series of Comparative Usability Studies(CUE) by Rolf Molich and several colleagues. In this CUE study, 15 teams independently conducted baseline usability tests. The focus was on how the teams measured usability. It is the first study to explore the measures that practitioners are using and it provides the first detailed insight into the diversity of measurement approaches. The study provides a wealth of data on the statistical assumptions that usability testing teams make. The authors find some acceptable and some not. Finally, this is the first study that was able to compare the advantages of moderated and unmoderated tests for baseline measurement.
The two following papers both use eye tracking measurements to help them understand better the behavior of users. In “Improving the Usability of E-Book Readers” Eva Siegenthaler and colleagues examine the legibility and usability of devices designed to allow users to read material in electronic form and compare them to reading from paper-based material. Among the interesting findings was a disconnect between the participants’ ratings of the legibility of the devices and their eye tracking data. Participants’ subjective judgments of legibility appeared to be influenced by their perceptions of usability of the devices. The eye tracking data helped to clarify this discrepancy.
The final paper by Alex DeWitt used eye tracking measures to investigate the interesting questions of whether the order of web site menu items matters. For example, should designers put important menu options first to make it faster for users of that option? The results of this study show that there is no statistically reliable order effect with web site menus. The lesson for designers is not that they shouldn’t place important options first, but that in tradeoffs with other variables order is less important that commonly believed.