Michael Rawlins, director of Human Factors Engineering at Open Solutions, defined usability as, “The measure of a product’s potential to accomplish the goals of the user. It refers to the extent to which a product is designed to fit users’ needs or the extent to which a product is easy to use.”
The new lab replicates the environment in which an individual uses a particular product and utilizes Morae® software to record all aspects of the individual’s experience while using the product: keystrokes, clickstream, audio and video. Those recordings are then synchronized into a single file and studied to determine, among other things, how simple, convenient and easily mastered the product is by the end-user.
Usability tests can be conducted on existing products and at key points throughout the creation of a new product including: during and after the design process, after it’s been deployed and when it’s deployed in a different cultural environment.
“When product design teams are supplied with this type of user research,” said Rawlins, “they can choose the correct screen types, design the correct navigation and user interaction, as well as screen flow.”
Testing can be done in the lab, located at Open Solutions’ Glastonbury headquarters, or remotely using iLinc™ remote access software. When conducted in the lab, interested parties can witness the testing from an attached observation room, allowing them to collaboratively monitor and analyze the results in real time.
Open Solutions will use the lab as a tool to further test its core processing technology, as well as many ancillary products, often calling on clients who already use the products to act as usability test subjects. Rawlins has been meeting with Open Solutions’ clients across the country to explain the importance of usability and how the company incorporates the methodology into its product development lifecycle. He has also established a core group of usability coordinators at various banks and credit unions on whom he can call when a testing opportunity arises.
“We have a well-established method for collaborating with our client base to brainstorm on and validate features within our core application,” said Rawlins. “There were, however, opportunities to enhance this collaboration, and that’s why we created the Enterprise Usability Lab. Good product usability is achieved by first understanding the target users’ needs, their goals, the challenges and limitations they face, the unique ways they use the product. These needs are determined by collecting data from actual users’ interactions with products.”
Open Solutions’ clients who have participated in the testing are enthusiastic about usability and having real input in the development of products.
Josef Britschgi, assistant vice president of Electronic Banking and marketing manager at the Community Bank of San Joaquin in Stockton, Calif. said, “Our staff is eager to test products that they will eventually use on a daily basis. Especially when there is proof that the feedback is valued and applied to the product being tested. Knowing that their experience and opinion helps shape the finished product provides a level of empowerment. It demonstrates that their concerns are important and that they share some responsibility in the quality of the final release.”
And Carla Baker, application systems analyst at Royal Credit Union (RCU) in Eau Claire, Wisc., said, “RCU is engaged in supporting, maintaining, and using our Open Solutions products to get the most out of them. When we were given the opportunity to be part of the usability testing process, we jumped at it. I feel more confident that the user interface of Open Solutions products will be greatly improved knowing that usability testing was applied to shape the system.”
Louis Hernandez, Jr., Open Solutions’
chairman and CEO, said the Enterprise Usability Lab would open up new
avenues for communicating with clients aside from the ones we already
have, which will in turn lead to new and improved product offerings. “We
take great pride in collaborating with our clients and the product
development that results from that interaction,”
he said. “Between the Client Association,
product user groups, focus groups and one-on-one meetings, we’ve
always worked with and listened to our clients, so we’re
pleased that the new lab, and its remote testing capability, will
provide even more opportunities to exchange ideas with our clients. ”