Empirical Methods

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    When considering which empirical methods are most important, it is important to consider the context. If we are thinking strictly about usability feedback, it seems as though each of the five methods mentioned in the overview could play an important role. Some of the methods may be more useful to conduct at certain points in the process than others. For example, interviews are likely to be very useful in the very beginning of the design process when we are determining exactly what the users want. Focus groups and surveys would likely be helpful when the site first goes live, as they could give explicit input concerning the site’s efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction of use. Usability testing and observation could be used in an ongoing fashion to continue periodic assessment of the site and also when revisions and/or updates are added to the site.

    In the past I have interviewed people for various reasons, though never for website usability. I would imagine that interviewing would need to be done in such a way that the participants are not influenced by a desire to please the site creator(s), as it would be harder to express criticisms about a site when speaking directly with the creator. Surveys would seem to extract more explicit and accurate feedback because of their anonymous nature. I would imagine observation would be difficult to achieve, as people will act differently when they are being observed and could even have more difficulty completing tasks due to anxiety.

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