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UX Walkthroughs

A User Experience (UX) Walkthrough is a technique used to identify usability and accessibility issues in a website or application. It is a procedure for examining a user interface following a set protocol and making assessments based on predetermined criteria. It emphasizes paired or collaborative evaluation of user interfaces by designers and non-designers alike, and serves to bring a diversity of perspectives to bear on the design process.


Walkthroughs involve constructing carefully defined tasks from a system specification or screen mock-ups. The multifaceted nature of the UX Walkthrough enables the reviewer to make assessments across several dimensions, including: general design quality, task-oriented usability, assistive technology usability, accessibility standards compliance, and code quality. A UX Walkthrough produces a result that reveals usability and accessibility issues effectively and efficiently.


A typical example would be to walk through the activities (cognitive and operational) that are required to get from one screen to another. Before doing the walkthrough experts determine the exact task that will be done, the context in which it will be done and their assumptions about the user population. They then walk through the task, reviewing the actions that are necessary to achieve the task, and attempt to predict how the user population would most likely behave and the problems that they would encounter. In many respects this is similar to a review, except that it requires a more detailed prediction of user behavior. The result is a comprehensive and multidimensional report of usability and accessibility issues.


The Fluid approach

The Fluid approach to UX Walkthroughs involves performing a Heuristic Evaluation and Cognitive Walkthrough, often at the same time. By using a combined approach, an evaluator can gain insight beyond that found by performing a single method in isolation. A UX Walkthrough can also involve an under-the-covers accessibility Accessibility Markup Review of the HTML.


Our aim for Fluid is Software that works - for everyone. This means that we assess accessibility as well as usability. Additionally, rather than having two separate inspections for usability and accessibility, we use a unified approach that addresses both areas. Either of the primary methods - heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthrough - may be used to address usability, accessibility, or both. The only difference is the set of principles applied or questions asked during inspection. Checklists for both usability and accessibility are offered here for each method.


When evaluating an application or website using a Fluid UX Walkthrough, you will be able to determine both:

  • How well the application fulfills the basic requirements for usability and/or accessibility.

  • How the interface accommodates a particular user - based on a persona or detailed knowledge about a particular user type.



Cognitive walkthroughs

Sometimes performed at the same time as the heuristic evaluation a cognitive walkthrough is a step-by-step exploration of a user interface to see how well a particular type of user (sometimes represented by a persona) will be able to perform a task or set of tasks.


Choose a user

Choose a user from whose perspective you will perform the walkthrough. This may be easiest to do by selecting a persona. If using a persona, ensure that the persona:

  • Is adequate to judge what knowledge the user may plausibly be expected to have

  • Specifies the particular needs, preferences, and limitations the user may have

Note: separate walkthroughs may be needed for each persona or user type, although some issues will likely show up in more than one walkthrough, resulting in later walkthroughs going more quickly than earlier ones.



Define a goal and a set of tasks

Determine the specific result desired by the user and motivating the interaction

  • Define a set of tasks required to a accomplish the goal

  • Lay out the sequence of steps the user/persona should go through to perform the tasks and achieve the goal.


Perform the tasks

For each step in accomplishing the tasks, ask:

  • Will the user know what to do at this step? Is complex problem solving needed to figure out what to do?

  • If the user does the right thing, will they know that they did the right thing, and are making progress towards their goal? Is complex problem solving needed to interpret the feedback?


Record results



Accessibility walkthroughs

In an accessibility walkthrough, the main consideration is how low vision, blindness, impaired hearing, motor control limitations, or cognitive issues affect the use of a website or application. The cognitive walkthrough protocol is followed, with an emphasis on accessibility cues.


Choose a user

Choose a user from whose perspective you will perform the walkthrough. This may be easiest to do by selecting a persona. If using a persona, ensure that the persona:

  • Is adequate to judge what knowledge the user may plausibly be expected to have

  • Specifies the particular needs, preferences, and limitations the user may have

Note: separate walkthroughs may be needed for each persona or user type, although some issues will likely show up in more than one walkthrough, resulting in later walkthroughs going more quickly than earlier ones.


Define the goal & tasks

Determine the specific result desired by the user and motivating the interaction

  • Lay out the sequence of steps the user/persona should go through to accomplish their goal.


Initial Assessment

Assess the overall layout and structure of each page.

  • Play around with the layout: enlarge the font size; change the size of the window (bigger and smaller); adjust the resolution.

  • Use the Tab key to traverse the entire page.


Perform the tasks

For each step in accomplishing the task, ask:


Will the user know what to do at this step?

  • Is complex problem solving needed to figure out what to do?

  • Are the cues provided accessible to the user?

  • Can the cues be understood by someone who doesn't process text well?

  • Can the cues be found by someone who can't scan the screen easily?

Will the user be able to carry out the required action?

  • Can it be performed easily by a keyboard-only persona?

  • Can it be performed without visual monitoring?

  • If the user does the right thing, will they know that they did the right thing, and are making progress towards their goal?

  • Is complex problem solving needed to interpret the feedback?

  • Is the feedback accessible to the user, and can they find it (as for cues)?


Considerations

Blind persons and some persons with limited motor control need keyboard-only operation

  • Persons with cognitive issues need visuals that reinforce text

  • Persons with low vision must enlarge page content; deaf people require video captioning and visual, rather than auditory, prompts.

You also must consider the assistive technology the user will use. Examples include screen magnifiers such as ZoomText, screen readers such as JAWS, or combination screen readers/enlargers such as the Kurzweil 3000.


Record results












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