If you went to Burlington for this month’s program and wondered why no one was there, that’s because the May meeting departed from the routine. STC New England teamed up with BostonCHI for a joint meeting on “The Many Faces of Learnability” on Tuesday, May 12 at the Autodesk Waltham office.
The meeting was held jointly with the Boston chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI), and drew a lively and energetic audience of 75. The presenter was Chauncey Wilson, a User Experience Architect at Autodesk as well as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Human Factors and Information Design Program at Bentley University. Chauncey was an ideal crossover speaker. He is an Associate Fellow of STC, past president of the Northern New England chapter, and past chair of the Usability SIG. He has worked in the field of usability since his days at Digital Equipment Corporation leading contextual inquiries. He has presented at UXPA, CHI, APA, and HFES conferences, and published several books and book chapters on usability engineering, brainstorming, surveys, and inspection methods.
According to Chauncey, “learnability is an important aspect of usability, yet there is little agreement on exactly what learnability is, how to measure it, and what guidelines and principles design teams should follow to make products and services easy to learn.” Moreover, different definitions of learnability have different learning curves, measuring methods, and target performance goals. Therefore, even a basic discussion by product designers of how they see users learning their product is invaluable. Wilson discussed issues with the various methods for measuring usability. Despite the difficulties, he regards learnability as an important quality attribute. At the conclusion of his information-packed talk, Chauncey provided a rich list of references.
Commenting on the meeting, STC New England Chapter President Nancy Allison said, “Our joint presentations with BostonCHI have been very enjoyable and very fruitful; it’s a great chance to get a view into a closely related discipline. It’s clearly a major benefit to the end user when technical communicators have the opportunity to work closely with usability experts. I look forward to more shared presentations in the future.” Rachel Kern, Chair of the BostonCHI Steering Committee, said, “I enjoyed Chauncey’s presentation, particularly his fantastic sense of humor. His style of giving examples by way of storytelling definitely reinforced the material. BostonCHI would certainly be interested in future joint programs—we had a joint program with STC last year as well, and I think it’s a great tradition to keep up!”
BostonCHI recorded the presentation and will post video on its website at http://www.bostonchi.org/video/.
As described on its website (www.bostonchi.org), the BostonCHI chapter of ACM SIGCHI is “an organization of professionals from the New England area in the field of Computer-Human Interaction. Members represent the diverse interests of that field, including graphic arts, documentation, usability, psychology, user interface design, human factors, industrial design, ergonomics, computer science, training, and education.”