BASED FOUNDATION FOR INSPECTION AND
CLASSIFICATION OF USABILITY PROBLEMS
H. Rex Hartson1, Terence S. Andre2, Robert C. Williges2, and Linda van Rens1 Department of Computer Science1 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering2 Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061 USA
Because of growing awareness of the importance of usability, organizations are expending ever-increasing resources for "doing usability;" enviable usability laboratories are built, developers are trained in usability methods and considerable resources are devoted to conducting usability evaluations. However, most organizations experience limited returns on their usability investment. Methods for usability inspection, usability data classification, and usability data management are ad hoc at best; lack of a unifying framework for usability tools limits the effectiveness of usability development activities. There is a clear need for more focused usability inspection methods and higher quality descriptions and classification in usability problem reports.
In this paper we report on a unifying framework, called the User Action Framework (UAF), we have developed as a foundation for structured methods and integrated tools to get the most value from usability data by way of analysis, classification, storage and retrieval, reporting, and redesign. The UAF is a theory-based structure for organizing usability concepts, issues, design features, usability problems, and design guidelines that has evolved as a common core for a multiplicity of usability methods and tools for usability practitioners. The UAF is manifest within a usability support tool by mapping the content and structure into an expression specific to the purpose of the tool. We describe the UAF concept and one such tool, the Usability Problem Inspector ( UPI) tool.
Previous work on the Usability Problem Taxonomy by Keenan (in press) and the Usability Problem Classifier by van Rens( 1997)provided useful methods for classifying usability problems by type. However these classification schemes