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What is it?
Consistency inspections ensure consistency across multiple products from
the same development effort. For example, in a suite of office productivity
applications, common functions should look and work the same whether the
user is using the word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, or database
Consistency inspections begin with a usability professional analyzing
the interfaces to all of the products and noting the various ways that
each product implements a particular user interaction or function. An evaluation
team then meets, and using the usability analysis as a basis, negotiates
and decides on the one golden implementation for the usability attributes
of each product.
How do I do it?
Form an inspection team, drawing members from each development team for
all products covered in the inspection. These members should have the authority
to negotiate for or against different design elements, and the power to
change their product's design at the review meeting. Have a usability professional
analyze each product as to its user interface, taking care to highlight
areas that are vastly different from other products. This initial document
will serve as the basis for the team's discussion during the meeting.
During the meeting, the team discusses the user interfaces to their
products in terms of the usability professional's document, and for each
element, comes to an agreement on what that element should look and work
like in all of the products. This agreement must be unanimous by every
member of the team, and buy-in from each product's development team (buy-in
for their representative's decisions) should be procured prior to the convening
of the meeting.
Keep a running tally of the changes to be made and decisions agreed
upon. Any issues that cannot be resolved quickly should be "parked" and
discussed at a later, more focused meeting.
When should I use this technique?
This technique is best used in the early stages of development, when initial
development work has not progressed to the point where products that require
extensive changes to ensure consistency will not require total overhauls.
The ideal time for consistency inspections are when design documents for
each of the individual products are almost done, and before any actual
work on building the products has commenced.
Who can tell me more?
Click on any of the following links for more information:
Wixon, Dennis, et. al., "Inspections and Design Reviews: Framework,
History, and Reflection," in Nielsen,
Jakob, and Mack, R. eds, Usability
Inspection Methods, 1994, John Wiley
and Sons, New York, NY. ISBN 0-471-01877-5 (hardcover)
Nielsen, Jakob, Usability
Inspection Tutorial, 1995, CHI
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