Improving the Interplay between Usability Evaluation and User Interface Design: Full-day Workshop at NordiCHI2004 (October 24 2004)

Theme and Goals

Software development is highly challenging. Despite many significant successes, several software development projects fail completely or produce software with serious limitations, including (1) lack of usefulness, i.e. the system does not adequately support the core tasks of the user, (2) unsuitable designs of user interactions and interfaces, (3) lack of productivity gains or even reduced productivity despite heavy investments in information technology (Gould & Lewis 1985, Strassman 1985, Brooks 1987, Matthiasen & Stage 1992, Nielsen 1993, Attewell 1994, Landauer 1995).

Broadly speaking, two approaches have been taken to address these limitations. The first approach is to employ evaluation activities in a software development project in order to determine and improve the usability of the software, i.e. the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users achieve their goals (ISO 1998, Frøkjær et al. 2000). To help software developers’ work with usability witin this approach, more than 15 years of research in HCI has created and compared techniques for evaluating usability (Lewis 1982; Nielsen & Mack 1994).

The second approach is based on the significant advances in techniques and methodologies for user interface design that have been achieved in the last decades. In particular, researchers in user interface design have worked on improving the usefulness of information technology by focusing on a deeper understanding on how to extract and understand user needs. Their results today constitute the areas of participatory design and user-centered design (e.g. Greenbaum & Kyng 1991, Beyer & Holtzblatt 1998, Bødker, Kensing & Simonsen 2004).

However, the interplay between these two approaches, and between the activities they advocate to be undertaken in software development, have been limited. Integrating usability evaluation at relevant points in user interface design with successful and to-the-point results has proved difficult. In addition, research in HCI and software design has been done mainly independently of each other with no in substantial exchange of results and sparse efforts to combine the techniques of the two approaches. Larry Constantine, a prominent software development researcher, and his colleagues express it this way: “Integrating usability into the software development process is not easy or obvious” (Juristo et al. 2001, p. 21).

The goal of this workshop is to determine state-of-the-art in the interplay between usability evaluation and user interface design and to generate ideas for new and improved relations between these activities. The aim is to base the determination of the current state on empirical studies. Presentations of new ideas on how to
improve the interplay should also be based on empirical studies. Within this focus, topics of discussion include, but are not limited to:


Participants are accepted on the basis of their submitted position papers. We aim at 15 with a maximum of 20 participants. Note that participants must register for the conference, see the conference web pages.

The intended audience is primarily researchers who are working with the theme. The workshop should also be relevant for practitioners who have experiences with and ideas for improving the interplay.


The outcome of the workshop is a collection of position papers as well as a presentation and discussion of these position papers. We are contacting key HCI journals about their willingness to produce a special issue on usability evaluation and user interface design based on the best papers from the workshop.

Relevance to the Field

The main contribution is the determination of state-of-the-art and ideas for improvement. The HCI field includes a rich variety of techniques for either usability evaluation or user interface design. But there are very few methodological guidelines for the interplay between these key activities. In addition, there are no systematic surveys of research in this area.

Position Papers and Activities Planned

Position papers are due September the 17th (extended deadline). Position papers should be submitted in PDF-format to Participants will be notified before September 21st and subsequently the papers will be made available to the other workshop participants. Position papers must describe empirical studies of the interplay between usability evaluation and user interface design. They should be around four pages, and be formatted according to the ACM template for proceedings.

Tentatively, the Workshop-programme (full day) is as follows:

Organizers' names and backgrounds

Kasper Hornbæk, assistant professor at University of Copenhagen. He has a PhD in human-computer interaction. He works with usability evaluation, information visualization, and computer-supported education.

Jan Stage, associate professor at Aalborg University. He has a PhD in information systems. He works with methods for usability evaluation, user interface design, prototyping, and object-oriented analysis and design.


Attewell, P. (1994), Information technology and the productivity paradox. In D.H. Harris (eds), “Organizational Linkages: Understanding the Productivity Paradox”. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Beyer, H. & Holtzblatt, K. (1998), Contextual design, Morgan Kaufman Publishers
Brooks, Jr., F. P. 1987. No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering, IEEE Computer, 20, 10-19
Bødker, K., F. Kensing, and J. Simonsen (2004): Participatory IT Design. Designing for Business and Workplace Realities
Frøkjær, E., Hertzum, M., & Hornbæk, K. (2000), "Measuring usability: are effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction really correlated?", Proceedings of CHI 2000, 345-352 ,The Hague Netherlands:ACM Press.
Gould, J. D. & Lewis, C. (1985), "Design for usability: Key principles and what designers think", Communications of the ACM, 28(3), 300-311
Greenbaum, J. & Kyng, M. (eds.) (1991), Design at work: cooperative design of computer systems, Lawrence Erlbaum Ass.
ISO (1998), "Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs)-Part 11: Guidance on Usability",
Juristo, N., Windl, H., & Constantine, L. (2001), "Introducing usability", IEEE Software, 20-21
Landauer, T. K. (1995), The trouble with computers: usefulness, usability, and productivity, MIT Press.
Lewis, C. (1982), "Using the "thinking-aloud" method in cognitive interface design", Research Report RC9265
Mathiassen, L. and Stage, J. (1992) The Principle of Limited Reduction in Software Design. Information Technology & People , 6(2-3):171-185.
Nielsen, J. & Mack, R. L. (1994), Usability Inspection Methods, Wiley and Sons Inc.
Strassman, P. A. (1985), Information Payoff: The Transformation of Work in the Electronic Age, New Canaan, CT: The Information Economic Press.