Analyzing User Interface Design: Steps & Procedures

Instructor: Alexis Kypridemos

Alexis is a technical writer for an IT company and has worked in publishing as a writer, editor and web designer. He has a BA in Communication.

In this lesson, we will learn the steps and processes for analyzing user interfaces. We will touch upon user analysis, task analysis, use cases, workflow analysis, display analysis etc.

Analyzing User Interface Design

User interface (UI) design is the study of how users use a particular software application / system or product. UI design analysis analyzes users, tasks, content and work environment. This lesson will focus on user and taks analysis. As with use cases, described later in the lesson, UI design analysis focuses on the users' goals, and the tasks they perform within a system (the application or product) to achieve those goals.

User Analysis

User analysis is the process of studying what type of person might use the application or product in question. For example, are they private individuals or professionals who use it as part of their work? Additionally, it is important to define the particular uses they will make of the product and what goals they achieve by using it. These can be thought of as 'user stories' or use cases.

Task Analysis

Task analysis is the process of studying how users accomplish the tasks they set out to perform using a software system / application or other product. This type of analysis focuses on:

  • What the users' goals are
  • What the users do to achieve those goals
  • The workflow the users follow to accomplish their tasks
  • What the users' level of experience is
  • How the users are affected by their physical environment

There are many ways to carry out task analysis and also many levels of detail, from general to very specific. One example of task analysis is gathering a small group of users, as a focus group of sorts, and observe them as they use a software application or website to accomplish a particular task, like searching for flights and purchasing tickets. The designers observing the group would record the users' interaction with the application or website, noting the steps they take to accomplish the task.

Use Cases

Use cases are essentially primary examples of how the proposed software application / system or product is meant to be used, from the users' point of view. A use case diagram will typically show system 'actors' (humans or other entities external to the system) and how they interact with the system. Technically, each action such a system actor can perform with the application or system, is considered to be a separate use case.

Figure 1: Use Case Diagram
Use Case Diagram

The diagram included here is a use case diagram drawn using Unified Modeling Language (UML), and it depicts three possible use cases for the system actor 'Traveler' when interacting with an airline company's application. The three use cases / actions depicted are:

  1. Search for flights
  2. Buy tickets
  3. Get boarding pass

The large rectangle labeled 'Airline Company Application' represents the system boundary. Notice that the actor labeled 'Traveler' is outside the system boundary. In UML, all actors are depicted outside the system boundary.

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