I have stumbled along this sometimes somewhat stony path: from an analysis of users’ perceptions, to the notion of user satisfaction, to user experience… [alongside] some of the attractive theories that may have led me and others astray.
-Dr. Jurek Kirakowski
Clemson University’s MATRF, Usability Testing Center, and student chapter of the Society for Technical Communication welcomed Dr. Jurek Kirakowski to campus on June 20, 2011. As Director of the Human Factors Research Group at University College Cork in Ireland, Dr. Kirakowski studies human-computer interaction and presented today to a standing-room-only crowd of interested students, faculty, and at least one proud alum.
Among the highlights of Dr. Kirakowski’s lecture today was a brief overview of the history of usability testing in computers, beginning with analyses of behavioral tendencies and culminating in today’s focus on the user’s experience. In the trajectory of the field, usability has transitioned from a behavioral field toward one that understands the user as an individual, with individual needs and past experiences.
Usability can measure quantitative affective, behavioral, and cognitive responses, but it also needs qualitative explanations to really understand the user. An individual user’s experience with technology remains shaped not only by the technology she is using, but also by her past experiences with technology similar (and dissimilar) to the one being tested.
“We are humans who interact with the technology we create. We have the experience of using the technology, sure (experience of use); but we also have the experience of the technology in our lives (experience in use),” says Kirakowski. “It is our duty as researchers to extrapolate satisfying explanatory theories from the data ‐ and to test them.”
About Dr. Jurek Kirakowski
Dr. Jurek Kirakowski comes from a practical computer science and psychology background, which he applies in his specialty of study: the quantitative measurement of human‐computer interaction. He is the Director of the Human Factors Research Group at University College Cork in Ireland. This group has contributed the SUMI (Software Usability Measurement Inventory), and most recently the WAMMI (Web site Analysis and Measurement Inventory) questionnaires, which are both by now ‘de‐facto’ standards in their respective areas, showing how user experience can be objectively analysed and measured. He is a Statutory Lecturer in the Department of Applied Psychology where he teaches on methodology and statistics issues as well as HCI, and his Introduction to the Science of Psychology course is an extremely popular one among students.