A common question from last week’s video post is “who are these ‘dedicated users’ you mention at the end?” quickly followed up by “why was I not one of them?” To answer the first, over the course of one year beginning at Autodesk University 2007, we tested the ribbon user interface on over 100 Revit users. This does not include the scores of users the ribbon concept was tested on by the other Autodesk product teams. Their expertise ranged from beginner (three days of training) to expert (used since release 3) and all points between. We carefully screened participants depending on the goals of the particular study. For instance, some studies were geared towards ease of learning while others were geared towards the overall efficiency on expert tasks. Participants represented companies as small as one all the way up to some of the largest AEC companies in the world. The participants were predominantly North American, something we are working to change as we improve our remote testing capabilities (more on that in later posts.) As I said in the video, the fidelity of the prototypes increased throughout the process as we refined the design. We started with paper prototypes at AU 2007 and ended with pre-Alpha working code at AU 2008. Usability sessions ranged from 30 minutes to 5 hours, but averaged about 60 minutes. We typically employ the think-aloud protocol, where we ask participants to talk through their thought processes as they complete tasks to understand problems as well as features that work well.
As for the second question, we are continuing to build our database of potential usability participants. As I mentioned earlier, we are particularly interested in reaching out to more international users. To add yourself to the database, you can fill out this recruitment survey. We have been working hard for the past three years at building up our usability testing methodologies and infrastructure at Autodesk. It is an evolving process and we are constantly striving to make it more effective. We will touch on more details about these methodologies as we dive into specific parts of the UI in later posts.