Using User Surveys
To effectively evaluate an HCI design (Human Computer Interaction), it is important to understand who the users are. It is important to separate out the individuals who interact with the system and those who only hold some “stake” in the system.
Additionally, for surveying users for the purpose of evaluation, establishing a standard user profile may be beneficial. This allows the analyst/designer to gain a basic understanding of what the typical user is like.
In the case of a web browser utilized in an organization the range of users may be great. Unlike certain HCI designs geared towards specific workgroups or departments, a web browser may be used by almost all business employees.
The first intuition may be to classify all of the organization’s internal employees as users. This, however, may not yield the most efficient results from one survey. Dividing users into several categories based on the frequency of use may help with a better study design.
Identifying primary users, those who use the web browser frequently, may provide the largest pool of users to survey. Secondary and tertiary users represent a smaller group of those employees who do not use the browser often.
It might be wise to generate a modified survey for users with less interaction. An alternative may be to allow users first to classify themselves into one of these categories, but this removes some control from the analyst.
The only other important attribute in user selection may classify users based on experience. This is not always necessary and for a more simplified system like a web browser, is probably without purpose.
It is a rare scenario where a survey will accurately gather all the data necessary to evaluate an HCI design entirely. Surveys do have their benefits and can be a valuable tool in conjunction with other data gathering methods.
In this case, it is likely the pool of users will be large because of the nature of the system. Because so many people may utilize the web browser, it is appropriate to gather information from many users.
A survey is advantageous for this purpose as it can be easily produced and mass distributed. Surveys can generate general feedback from large quantities of users.
Where surveys tend to fall short is in the type of data they gather. They often are limited to general questions with quick responses as analysts cannot spend the time reading numerous lengthy responses. They cannot provide additional clarity to the questions nor can analysts ask for more elaboration once the survey is completed.
Because of this, it is often better to combine studies with other data gathering techniques like interviews and observation. These methods help cover the design evaluation more in depth.
Surveys remain a good practice and are a good start to the data gathering process. While they will assist in this case of web browser evaluation, they are not appropriate as the only method.