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Usability Methods

The following list includes various user-centered design methods that can help improve the usability and usefulness of your site.

Card Sorting

Technique that allows users to group the information on your Web site and helps to ensure that the site structure matches the way users think.

Contextual Interviews

Method that enables you to observe users in their natural environment to better understand the way users work.

Focus Groups

Moderated discussion with a group of users that allows you to learn about users' attitudes, ideas, and desires.

Heuristic Evaluation

Usability inspection method where a group of usability experts evaluate the Web site against a list of established heuristics (or guidelines).

Individual Interviews

One-on-one discussions with users that allow you to learn how a particular user works and enables you to probe on a user's attitudes, desires and experiences.

Parallel Design

Technique where multiple designers create mock-ups of the user interface and the best aspects of each design are used in the final design.


A fictional person that represents one of the major user groups for the site. The design team considers the needs of this fictional person when developing the site.


Draft model (or mock-up) of the Web site that allows the design team to explore ideas before fully implementing them. A prototype can range from a paper mock-up to interactive html pages.

Surveys (Online)

Series of questions asked to multiple users of the Web site that helps you learn about the people who visit your site.

Task Analysis

Method that involves learning about users' goals - what they want to do on your Web site - and understanding the tasks that users will perform on your site.

Usability Testing

One-on-one sessions where a "real-life" user performs tasks on the Web site in order to identify user frustrations and problems with the site.

Use Cases

Description of how users will use a particular feature of the Web site. Use cases provide a very detailed look at how users interact with the site including the steps a user will take to accomplish each task.

Writing for the Web

Guidelines for optimizing content on the Web based on the way users read online. Involves chunking content, using bulleted lists, and putting the most important information at the top of the page.