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Usability analysts work in the field of usability -- a discipline that drives the design of websites, software applications and virtually any product with which a user interacts, making the product more intuitive. Sometimes known as user interface or user experience professionals, usability analysts spend much of their time evaluating interfaces and advocating for improvements in the experience of those who use the product.
“Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use,” according to Dr. Jakob Nielsen, a leading usability consultant who breaks usability down into five components: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction. If a user can’t learn the interface easily, use it quickly, remember how it works, recover from errors or enjoy using it, the usability analyst must determine how, when, and where to improve that interface.
A usability analyst often acts as both analyst and designer. For a product that has been released, the analyst evaluates user interactions, conducts usability studies and presents findings and recommendations in a plan that drives future design improvements. For a product in development, the analyst develops the user “story” through task analysis, process mapping and user input. Based on that story, personal expertise and industry trends, the analyst creates interface design standards to ensure a consistent look and feel, constructs wireframes (paper or electronic “sketches”) to convey the design concept and develops prototypes to demonstrate the “fully cooked” interface design.
Qualifications and Skills
Beyond strong analytical skills and in-depth knowledge of usability methodologies, a usability analyst needs proficiency with computers, Internet research, office productivity software and electronic collaboration tools. An analyst must articulate ideas, promote usability and persuade audiences on paper and in person. Employers look for advanced degrees or equivalent experience in related fields such as human-computer interaction, information architecture, technical writing or business analysis. According to a 2009 Usability Professionals’ Association survey, more than 90 percent of usability professionals have degrees, with half of those surveyed holding a master's or doctorate.
Employers often expect usability analysts to perform as project managers, presenters, leaders and facilitators for cross-functional teams. Knowledge of software development life cycles, testing tools and query languages benefits the software usability analyst, while website analysts should know enough about web development tools to ensure designs are technically feasible. Graphic design skills help when wireframing an interface. Active membership in an organization that promotes usability, such as the UPA, also looks good on a resume.
According to Glassdoor, the average national salary of a usability analyst was $68,750 in June 2014. Some factors in an analyst's salary include her education and experience, the particular employer and the job location.
Lisa Hamilton began writing professionally in 1993 as an information designer for big Texas business. She now publishes informative online articles from her home in the great Northwest. Specializing in active lifestyle topics, much of her work appears on eHow and Trails. Hamilton has a bachelor's degree in business computer information systems from the University of Iowa with a minor in music.