Don’t guess, measure!

I’m watching a builder working on the roof of the office next door. This morning he hauled up a big batch of insulation material, and now he’s putting down the last insulation batt. He has none left over and he’s not missing any. He had exactly the right number. Why? Because he didn’t guess how big the roof was, he measured.

As technologies mature, measurements take over from guesswork. It’s happened in database tuning where most people now measure before they start wildly changing database parameters. It’s happening right now in ADF applications (as I presented on at OpenWorld). And it’s happening in user interface design.

How do you measure a user interface? One way of doing this is using eye tracking. When I recently visted the Oracle Applications User Experience team, I had a chance to try out their eye tracker. It looks like a normal screen, but is has a little panel below the screen that tracks my eyes and produces images like this:

The top image shows a “heat map” providing an overview of the total time all users spent looking at different areas of the picture while the bottom image show a detailed eye track from one user, with each fixation point numbered.

Looking at the Oracle Fusion Applications screenshots, you can see that they don’t look much like typical ERP systems. That’s because Oracle has started measuring actual user experience and building applications to match the way people work.

Are you measuring user experience? You don’t need an eye tracking device – but you need to build UI prototypes and test them on actual users