Introduction to Volume 5, Issue 3

Welcome to the third issue of volume 5 of JUS!

First and foremost, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Joe Dumas as co-editor-in-chief of JUS. Dumas is a leading pioneer in the usability field and has published the Practical Guide to Usability Testing and Moderating Usability Tests among other articles. He has been on the editorial board of JUS since it’s inception in November 2005, and his knowledge and experience will continue to be a great asset to JUS. Welcome Joe!

What does it take to be an effective usability professional? Mary Beth Rettger, in her invited editorial titled: “The seven habits of highly effective usability people”, proposes an answer. The seven habits (or perhaps competencies) she outlines range from the basics of user-centered design approach to being “organization smart”. Mary Beth is using this list to initiate new usability professionals in her group. But it can go beyond that to become a guide many of us can use to re-visit and re-evaluate our own practices and skills.

The first peer-reviewed article in this issue reminds us again that usability issues can impact the core of democracy, voting and elections. In their article titled: “Plain language makes a difference when people vote”, Ginny Redish, Dana Chisnell, Sharon Laskowski, and Svetlana Lowry tested the impact of the language used in electronic voting ballots. Using plain language had a strong impact on users perceptions and preferences. The study emphasizes yet again the importance of language and terminology in usability.

Questionnaires are used extensively in usability studies, and we often encounter issues of which questionnaires to use and how to analyze and interpret the results. Kraig Finstad explored the issue of the number of scale points and reports about it in the second peer-reviewed article titled: “Response interpolation and scale sensitivity: Evidence against 5-point scale”. By examining participants’ tendency to look for additional scale points beyond five, Kraig adds another piece of evidence to previous research supporting more than five scale points.

Very often we assess usability by capturing users’ performance in various tasks. The third peer-reviewed article reminds us that there are other critical aspects that can impact usability. Piia Suomalainen, Leena Korpinen, and Rauno Pääkkönen in their article titled: “A comparison of the usability of a laptop, communicator, and handheld computer” report the impact of ergonomic characteristics on user satisfaction and performance. Parameters such as back strain or eye fatigue were associated with other more common usability metrics.

Finally, we are revisiting the ever present challenge of the adequate sample size for usability studies. Rolf Molich offers a critical commentary on an article previously published in JUS. Rolf reviews several additional parameters that should be considered when determining sample size, parameters such as the objective of the test, quality of evaluators, and the type of problems.