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Author: Emrah Yayici

Gaudi and Steve Jobs Way of User Interface Design

In many companies, one of the challenges for business analysts is: “Designing Best User Interfaces”.

To achieve this objective business analysts should first shift their focus from designing the best “user interfaces” to designing the best “UX (user experience)”.

In case design thinking is limited to best “user interfaces”, the focus is only given to visual aspects and functionality. But the best “user experience” can only be achieved if usability is also positioned as a must have throughout the design process in addition to functional and aesthetic concerns.

To ensure usability of the interfaces companies have started to establish dedicated UX teams. These teams work on the low-fidelity prototypes created by business analysts and improve their usability by applying UX design principles. They also conduct usability tests with real users to find and fix the usability problems on the prototypes. Afterward they send the prototypes to visual designers who create the most aesthetic visual designs.

However in majority of the companies the role of UX teams is still totally played by business analysts. This may be due to budget constraints and unawareness on the importance of usability. At the companies that don’t have UX teams, business analysts have to spend more time and effort to improve their knowledge on usability and UX design principles.

The most important of these principles is “User Centricity”.

User interfaces are considered usable if they are easy to use and good fit for the people who use them. This requires a User Centered approach in the design process.

Throughout the construction history, Gaudi has been one of the most famous architects with his user centered architecture design approach. His story starts with a childhood suffering from poor health. This situation prevented him from going to school, and he spent most of his time in nature. His observations of nature inspired his design approach, which can be summarized as follows: “The great book always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of Nature.” With this philosophy he designed buildings with “organic style,” which then became an important standard in architecture.

Another man revolutionized the high-tech industry in a similar way. By positioning users at the center of the analysis and design process, Steve Jobs led the innovation of the most usable consumer electronics products ever. He achieved to create natural-born users of his products. Even kids can use his company’s phones and touchpads with gestures similar to their natural behavior. This new design approach made his company the best performer in the high-tech industry.

In user interface design, the most practical way of adapting Gaudi and Steve Jobs way of user centricity is applying user profiling technique during requirements elicitation stage of the project. User profiling is grouping users according to their mental models and level of computer use based on their personal characteristics such as age, gender, education, income level and business background. Business analysts should define user profiles in addition to user requirements during requirements gathering sessions, define personas (imaginary characters) for each profile and should consider the characteristics of personas during user interface design.

This user-centered analysis and design approach ensures both functionality and usability and helps to provide the best experience on user interfaces.

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Requirements Driven Test Management

According to the Standish Group’s Chaos Report, 90% of IT projects are delivered late and 66% of them are not considered successful. Surveys show that more than 50% of the project failures can be attributed to problems stemming from Requirements Elicitation and Management and more than 20% are due to Ineffective Testing.

This situation can be best explained with a simple analogy from nature. The software development lifecycle is like a river with requirements at its source. If you can’t clean the river at its source, you will have a dirty river flowing down the hill. A reactive rather than a proactive approach to clean the river will increase the costs and risks exponentially. The proactive way to overcome this situation is by integrating Requirements and Test Management activities and formulating a Requirements Driven Test Management Process. To build a RDTM Process the following critical success factors should be in place:

  • Early Testing. The testing activities should start in parallel to requirements definition without waiting for coding. Finding and fixing the requirement defects will lead to early prevention of flaws in design and coding process. Applying Early Testing as a principle will also have a positive quality assurance impact on business analysis activities.
  • Use Case vs. Test Cases. In most of the projects, use cases are used as test cases. But these test cases only contain positive cases lacking forced error (negative) test scenarios which help in identifying most of the defects. In good practice approaches test cases should be prepared as a combination of use case scenarios and negative scenarios. Negative test cases are best developed by using test design techniques like equivalence partitioning, decision tables, boundary value analysis etc.
  • Independent Test Teams. Positioning testing as a nice to have rather than a must have, last minute, additional task for developers or BAs resulted in incomplete and ineffective testing of applications. In order to avoid this problem, independent test teams with test automation capabilities should be established in organizations. Nowadays, CIOs are investing in Centers of Excellence for Requirements Engineering and Test Engineering teams as separate disciplines.
  • Requirements Traceability and Test Coverage. The traceability matrix is a helpful tool to ensure that requirements have been met and all changes are addressed. By using traceability matrices, requirements can be referenced beside relevant test cases and test coverage ratio can be monitored at each stage of the project. Requirements coverage should be also used as a Key Performance Indicator for test teams and should be evaluated as test exit criteria.
  • Requirements vs. Test Automation Tools. Requirements Driven Test Management necessitates the integration of requirement management and test automation tools. In the selection of test automation tools, the requirements coverage monitoring abilities should be a selection criteria, in addition to standard test case and bug tracking functionalities.

Beyond all the critical success factors discussed above, most companies require a paradigm shift in their culture to put requirements driven test management into reality.

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Emrah Yayici is the Managing Partner of Ba-Works Business Analysis Services. He is the president of IIBA Turkey Istanbul Chapter. He has worked as a consultant for Arthur Andersen and Accenture on various international technology and management consulting projects. He studied Industrial Engineering and Economics in Middle East Technical University. He has published many articles and participated as a speaker at various conferences on business analysis and software testing. He is a strong supporter of business analysis and software testing professions and supports this vision with active roles in global and local non profit organizations.