An original technical report of research. The stakeholders for the work are highlevel managers of the marketing department of a Japanese consumer electronics company.
A Usability Evaluation
Karen Schriver, Research Director Christopher Freeble Nancy Downes Diane Haugen
Don Kline Michele Matchett Joy Jones Deborah Ainsworth
Communications Design Center Carnegie Mellon University April 4, 1990
This report presents the results of a two-year project for Mitsubishi Electric Sales of America (MESA) conducted by the Communications Design Center of Carnegie Mellon University. The project involved evaluating the writing and design of instruction guides for VCRs, TVs, and stereos. It began with a features analysis of the guides to assess the quality of the originals. This expert evaluation was followed by usability testing—an assessment of the guides and the product interface by members of the intended consumer market for each product line. Usability testing was followed by a wholesale revision of each guide. These initial revisions were then put through an exhaustive technical review with experts in audio/video systems. Based on input from these experts, the guides were again revised to generate a prototype for each product line. Finally, the lessons learned were consolidated into a set of guidelines for writers, designers, and technical illustrators. These guidelines cover writing, design, typography, interface design, logo design, and technical illustration. Mitsubishi can now build on the results of this project to demonstrate how it is making its products easy to use and easy to learn. Moreover, Mitsubishi now has a platform for future document design and interface design.
A few years ago Mitsubishi began to notice that customers were complaining about how difficult it was to use its products. People were unable to program their VCRs to record, use the menus displayed on their high-end TVs, or hook-up their surround-sound stereo systems. Although Mitsubishi was producing outstanding technologies, it was having difficulties communicating effectively with its customers.
Mitsubishi studied the product design, the interface, and the instructions to locate the problem. All three were found to cause users troubles. To solve the “instruction manual” problem, MESA switched to videos. Instructional videos were created and shipped with all new VCRs. Unfortunately, customers who needed help “setting up their VCR” could not play the tape until it \vas set up, rendering the tape effectively useless at the time customers most needed help. Marc Auerbach of MESA recommended going back to paper, but this time to “get it right. ” Subsequently Mitsubishi approached Karen Schriver to review the manuals.