Usability Typically users start handling the new software after 20%, 50% or 80% of the project time. Why not divide these numbers by 100? We want to see users interacting with the new software right from the beginning, so that we know as soon as possible if ideas are working or not. This is our approach at Catalysts: In a design studio, we develop different usability concepts. We are exploring alternatives and comparing their relative merits. We work out many different concepts to paper prototypes. This relies heavily on experience and creativity. We test the paper prototype with real users. This is the most interesting step, since it is the information providing part of the process. Concepts and sketches provide questions, whereas testing a paper prototype provides answers. We should not commit to a design too soon— there is value in continually exploring various options to any question. So we iterate those three steps. How does testing work? First, define your goals and identify the tasks to test. Then, assemble your test team: You need a tester, who is an end user or a stand in. The Computer, typically the user interface designer, simulates the behavior of the computer program. The facilitator initially tells the tester which goals he should reach. He encourages the tester to “think out loud” so that the flow of information from the tester to the observers is maximized. The observers silently watch the test and take notes. This formation provides a large amount of valuable feedback. As soon as task completion time and errors or mis-steps are at a minimum and stable, the user interface is ready to develop. This simple and inexpensive process provides major advantages: It allows us to compare alternative designs. We can experiment with many ideas rather than betting on one. It provides early substantive user feedback— before you’ve invested effort in implementation. It facilitates communication within the development team and between the development team and customers. It does not require any technical skills, so a multidisciplinary team can work together. It encourages creativity in the product development process and a more creative response from reviewers. We know that our process to usabilty provides Maximum Feedback for Minimum Effort! We are Catalysts. Software is our passion.