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Arts and Humanities
User Experience Design
Glossary Of Usability Terms
Glossary used to study for the HFI CUA exam.
Terms in this set (173)
A4 Paper Size
A4 paper size A standard paper size (210 x 297 mm) widely used in countries using the metric system.
Live‐site testing technique where a percentage of site visitors are shown an alternate version of a design. The effectiveness of the two designs is then compared.
For Web pages, the area that is visible upfront before scrolling
the page. The term is derived from the space as seen on the
front page of a newspaper when folded in half. Most important matter is placed above the fold.
Shortcut keystrokes that instantly perform an operation.
Pressing "Ctrl" and then "M" in MS PowerPoint™ inserts a new slide.
Access to everyone regardless of disability. Barrier‐free design.
An area of expertise focused on delivering products to individuals with disabilities, who may be using their own assistive technology.
A navigation control where the user expands a navigation
option to see the sub‐navigation options under it, collapsing any previously expanded navigation option.
A graphic widget that allows the selection of multiple items
from a list into a new functional group. Also called a list builder or add-remove control
A word such as "NATO" and "NASA" formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term.
A sentence structure where the subject performs the action of
the verb and the object receives the action. For example, "The
user selects the drop‐down box." Active voice differs from the passive voice wherein the subject receives the action, e.g., "The drop‐down box is selected by the user."
Implementation of designs that allows them to adapt to
different form factors, such as PC, tablet, or mobile device. Delivered via pre‐defined screen sizes (not fluid layout). See also "Responsive design".
A reasonably detailed, full‐scale, and usually working model
of a new application or Web site used to test the effectiveness of the application or site.
A group decision‐making technique designed to sort a large
number of ideas, concepts, and opinions into naturally related groups. Used in documenting task or content relationships, often created from card sort activities or group brain storming
When a control behaves as its appearance suggests. For example, a push button is said to have good affordance when it looks clickable. A pushbutton that does not look clickable or a non‐clickable image that looks like a pushbutton, are examples of poor affordance. Good affordance provides intuitive interaction.
Aliasing / Anti‐Aliasing
The process of filling out the jagged edges of an image or
typeface with additional pixels. The color of the pixels is averaged between the type color and the background.
Aliasing (left) Anti-Aliasing(right)
Implicit (not visible) vertical lines along which elements align
on an interface.
ALT text In HTML, a short text description of an image. It is added to aid non‐graphical browsers, and appears if the image cannot be displayed.
The measurement of the human body size and distributions of
physical dimensions in a population.
Ascender In typography, the upward vertical stem on some lowercase letters, such as "f" and "b," which extends above the x‐height.
Ascender line marks the top of ascenders
Any technology or product designed to assist an individual
with a disability in using a website or application. For example,
a JAWS screen reader or VoiceOver iPhone app are assistive technologies.
The cognitive process of concentrating on one selected aspect of the environment while ignoring others.
A process whereby a drop‐down list, combo box, or text entry
field fills in once the user has typed enough characters to have a complete match. (Also known as Auto Suggest)
A feature that corrects common and obvious input errors
(such as spelling). It may ask the user to confirm the correction if the error is uncommon or has more than one possible correction.
A feature that automatically takes the cursor to the next text entry field after the user reaches the end of the previous field without having to hit "Tab."
Cursor automatically moves to the next box after reaching the end of the previous box.
In typography, the imaginary line upon which a line of text rests.
Baseline marks the base of the text.
Actions performed by a person as a conscious reaction to
external or internal stimuli.
Belt and Suspender Rule
A metaphor for using attributes one at a time. For example,
make the header bold or increase the font size; not both. When using a belt, one doesn't need suspenders.
Belt and suspender rule: To show font hierarchy, increase font size, or make text bold; not both
Testing an application against a set of standard best practices
or established criteria.
A one‐sided viewpoint, inclination or a partial perspective. An interviewer might inadvertently bias an interviewee's answers by asking a "loaded" question, in which a desired answer is
presupposed in the question.
The study of the mechanical function and dynamics of the
A font or graphic image made up of a pattern of pixels in a rectangular grid. Bitmaps are aliased. The stair‐ step effect is produced by the square shape of the pixels, and enlarging such an image magnifies this effect.
Bitmapped (left) | Vectored (right)
Bounded Field / Unbounded Field
The ability of a control to allow for freeform entry versus forced selection from a set of options. A bounded field (e.g., list box) forces selections making it less error prone than a text entry field, which supports freeform entry. A text field with a format mask gives the field a bounded quality, making it less error prone (e.g., date fields with format slashes).
Bounded Field (left) | Bounded Field with Format Mask (middle) | Unbounded Field (right)
A device that converts text from a computer application or
Web page into Braille, allowing a visually impaired person to
use a computer.
The deliberate process of creating individuality and market value around the concept of a product name. Effective branding efforts enable companies to convey distinctiveness and value to their various audiences.
Elements such as graphics, text, theme, etc. used to create
An auxiliary form of navigation consisting of a trail of links,
indicating where the user is in the site hierarchy, and also allowing the user to navigate back up one or more levels.
Trail of links from the home page to the current page
A standard, preferred or common way of viewing or depicting
A technique to investigate how users tend to group. The users
are given a set of cards containing individual item names and
are told to sort them into related piles and label the groups. Card sorting provides insight into the user's mental model and suggests the structure and placement of items on a Web site.
Card sorting technique to identify users' mental model of information architecture
A hierarchical menu system that appears as the user highlights
individual items in the menu. The number of levels in the hierarchy can vary. A cascading menu hides site content and can require a high degree of manual dexterity to manipulate, causing frustration as the number of levels increases.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
A mechanism for specifying how a Web page looks without affecting its HTML structure. Styles define attributes such as color, font size, alignment, and spacing. The term cascading is used because more than one Style Sheet can affect the same page. CSS standards were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
A relationship between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is a consequence of the first event
A control, in the shape of a small box, used in forms or dialog
boxes that users can check or uncheck to agree or disagree with the text written next to it. Checkboxes are independent of other checkboxes (as opposed to radio buttons which are mutually exclusive). Thus the user can make multiple choices from a group of selections.
The blurring of colors in an image caused by the unequal
refraction of light rays of different colors passing through a
lens, whereby all the colors do not focus at a single point, e.g., our eye cannot focus red and blue light on our retina, causing chromatic aberration.
Chromatic Aberration with red and blue text
The visual effect of vibration or floating when the eye is
attempting to accommodate at extreme ends of the color spectrum (e.g., when reds and blues are placed side by side).
The trail of mouse clicks made by a user while performing a
particular task. It often refers to linking from one page to
another on the Web.
A term relating to the relative difficulty of a task and the
mental effort required to complete it. Tasks that present
choices and actions in accordance to the user's expectations are considered as having a low level of friction, while those that require deliberation are said to be high in cognitive friction.
The process of a user applying their knowledge, memory, and
judgment when experiencing a design, and then taking an action
A design evaluation in which team members review all screen
elements in the context of various tasks (e.g., "How many
users will click this button for task A? What happens when they do?").
Also known as Hue. Color is how different wavelengths of visible light are perceived by the eye. It is an attribute used to describe the wavelengths of light reflected from an object. Cones are the color receptors in the eye.
A partial inability to distinguish or perceive colors.
Tool used by visual designers to make fundamental color
A combination of a text entry field and a dropdown list to allow users to either select from existing options or type a completely new entry.
The Gestalt principle of grouping that states that items
grouped within an area (e.g., using a background plane) tend to be perceived as belonging together.
Tests done at almost any stage of the development life cycle
that compares applications against a set of established criteria. These tests can be done with users (referred to as a within subjects test) or by experts.
Colors that are directly opposite each other on the color
Also called Technological Expertise. A relative comfort with
technology; adeptness while using a computer or advanced
An outline drawing to indicate ideas about how to solve a
specific design problem. It excludes the level of detail that goes into the final product. Concept sketches are used at the beginning of the design process to quickly explore different ideas and to narrow down to an effective design.
A model constructed by the users in their mind to understand
the working or the structure of objects, based on their mental model and previous experience, to speed up their understanding. Also called mental model.
The tendency to search for, notice, and interpret information
in a way that confirms one's beliefs or opinions.
The Gestalt principle of grouping that states that items
connected with visual elements (e.g., lines) tend to be
perceived as belonging together.
A term given to a set of design areas that focuses on the
information value of content, as opposed to the presentation
of it. The content topics include editorial style, internationalization, and accessibility. The term content design intends to differentiate these topics from other topics for purposes of evaluation and development.
A type of graphic designed for the purpose of providing
specific content, as differentiated from graphics that add aesthetic value or brand value. Examples of content graphics include complex charts, maps, and product photographs. Of all the graphic types, content graphics are the most likely to serve as a destination in their own right, as opposed to a marker for entry into information (e.g., icon).
complex chart (left) | Map (middle) | Product Photograph (right)
The effect of surrounding elements on the perceived meaning
or use of an isolated element. For example, the meaning of an
The meaning of the word "Advanced" is perceived in context with "Search"
Context Sensitive Popup Menu
A short list of choices or instructions with information that is customized for a particular area of a program, appearing on screen in a small window.
A direct data gathering method in which the usability analyst
shadows an end user through their day/ tasks. Helpful for developing a clear understanding of both the context of the tasks and a compressive environmental analysis.
Percentage of users who take a specified action, such as sign‐
up for an account or purchase a product
A small file with user‐specific information that the server writes to the user's hard disk for later access. Intended as a mechanism for customization (remembering favorite purchases and wish lists, storing shopping cart contents, etc.).
A statistical relationship between two variables or two sets of
data. A correlation might be positive (as one variable increases, the other increases) or negative (as one variable increases, the other decreases). Note that correlation does not imply that one variable's movement causes the other to move (causation).
Cross Checking (Cross Validation)
Error checking technique usually applied to forms that compare two or more field inputs.
Any technique used to gather data from actual (or potential)
end‐users of a product. Data gathering techniques can be direct or indirect and conducted with individual end‐users or groups of end‐users.
An information mapping technique that simplifies complex
logic presented in textual form by re‐writing it as a visual
Refers to the technique of reusing an area of a page or
window for dynamically displaying content based on a user's selection.
In typography, the portion of some lowercase letters, such as "g" and "y," which extends or descends below the baseline.
Descender line marks bottom of descenders
A post hoc evaluation that ensures the design has the
functions and elements identified as necessary in the user analysis. Tests the correspondence of the design with the end users' actual needs.
The process of confirming that the interface, as built,
corresponds with the design that was specified. In contrast, design validation tests correspondence of the design with the end users' actual needs.
A step in the design process that follows high‐level structure,
navigation, and architecture design. It focuses on presentation, content, and interaction issues. Advanced prototypes are generated to test detailed page elements such as controls, color, graphics, and wording.
A specific type of color weakness based on the reduced ability
to perceive colors within the green spectrum. Reportedly the most common type of color weakness.
Term for when a user needs to switch between two input
devices, such as switching between the keyboard and a
mouse, or the keyboard and a touch screen.
Direct User Data
User data collected through direct, face‐to‐face interaction
with end users. Methods include direct interviews, focus groups, and usability roundtables. (Also see Indirect User Data.)
Disabled (button / control)
Reference to a button or control that is "grayed‐out" and
currently not available for the user to access, but may be
available when certain conditions are met (such as filling in all fields required to submit a form).
Knowledge of a particular topic. For example tax preparers
have domain expertise in income tax preparation and income
tax law. Domain expertise is subject matter expertise, and is distinct from technological expertise.
Drop‐Down List Box
A list of limited options that is displayed below a field after
clicking it, to avoid errors and save keystrokes.
Individuals who integrate new technologies in their lifestyle as
soon as they are available—often well before the general public begins to use the technology.
Individuals who use the product early in its lifecycle
Early Prototype Testing
Simple and low‐cost testing techniques. Usually done early in
design. Early prototype testing has less formal controls and structure.
A usability metric that captures how easily a task is completed with a given interface (e.g., time for completion, number of key‐strokes for completion). Must be measurable in quantitative terms.
A snapshot of the circumstances external to the users and
their tasks, which affect their accomplishing their goals with
the system. Includes the setting, circumstances, and physical systems used.
A component of task analysis, which strives to identify the
frequency and types of errors that occur for a specified set of
task flows. Can include Errors of Omission, Errors of Commission, Sequence Errors, or Timing Errors.
Point at which an error is detected during user input. Error
detection can be field‐level (after each field is entered,) or form‐level (after the entire page / form has been completed).
Process for automatically correcting errors for a user or
informing the user of the error and what needs to be fixed.
Error messages are used to inform the user when they need to fix an error.
Error of Commission
A type of error in which a user performs an act incorrectly.
This could involve providing an incorrect input, for example.
Error of Omission
An error in which a user fails to perform a specific task or step
Number, frequency, or proportion of errors (relative to correct completions) for a given task or interface.
A person in an organization who takes upon themselves the
task of advocating usability and encourages products to be
designed with the end‐user's needs in mind.
An early usability test to evaluate the initial mental model of
the user and their expectations about what the application or site would do. This test is usually done prior to a performance test.
A data‐saving feature that requires the user to clearly state
that the data needs to be stored in the memory
An electronic apparatus which enables researchers to observe
at what a subject's eyes fixate and movements between
Design evaluation tool used to determine where participants
are looking or not looking on a screen, and how long they look
at particular locations.
Meetings in which developers and users convene to discuss
aspects of an interface under development. Sometimes called Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions.
Something that looks like the end of a page, but isn't.
Refers to a mindset that focuses primarily on a checklist of
features offered by a product rather than on its usability.
Excessive provision of features in a product in an attempt to
make it more technologically competitive but failing in usability.
Communication to the end user that an action is in progress or
has been completed. Confirmation messages are a kind of feedback message.
A model of human movement which predicts that the time needed to move to a target varies with the distance to and size of the target. Fitts' Law is often applied to computer mouse movements.
In human eye movement, the periods when the eyes stop or hesitate in order to focus or gaze upon a visual object.
Focal Points of Design
The four focal points of design that evolve during the design
process are navigation, content, presentation, and interaction design.
A direct data gathering method in which a small group (8-10)
of participants are led in a semi‐structured, brainstorming session to elicit rapid feedback about an interface under development. Focus group data is most useful for generating new ideas or functions for an interface, rather than evaluating an existing one. Group dynamics often make focus group data suspect.
The line below which a Web page cannot be first visible without scrolling.
Set of type characters that are all of one style. Style elements include X‐height, proportional vs. monospaced, and serif vs. sans serif.
Point size is not a style element of font.
Part of global navigation. Links at the foot or bottom of a Web
Testing the design during development to answer and verify
design decisions. Results are used to modify the existing design and provide direction. Usually done with paper prototypes.
The area of the inner eye, directly behind the pupil, which is responsible for sharp vision and most color perception.
To angle one's eyes so that the area of one's visual field covered by the foveae envelopes a displayed object.
Free Exploration Test
A usability test in which participants are asked to use the site without scenarios in order to procure more realistic data on how the site is typically explored. This test provides useful insights on how choices are made on a site.
The distribution of task responsibilities across humans and technology for a given task or function.
A design prototype that functions almost like a final product.
Such a prototype is used in usability tests especially where navigation is the most critical.
The mistaken belief that if an event has occurred more
frequently than normal, it will happen less frequently in the future, and vice‐versa.
A technique used to determine the difference between a
desired state and an actual state, often used in branding and marketing. Gap analysis may address performance issues or perception issues. Smaller gaps are better.
General Adaption Syndrome
The body's 3‐stage, short‐ and long‐term reactions to stress:
(1) Alarm (fight or flight); (2) Resistance (bodily adaption to the stressors and attempts to reduce the stressors' effects; (3) Exhaustion (bodily resistance is depleted and the immune system might be impaired).
General Presentation Rules
The guidelines within a standard that define the presentation rules for the screens including: use of branding elements, color, layout, editorial style, graphics, and typography.
A set of principles developed by the Gestalt Psychology
Movement that established rules governing how humans perceive order in a complex field of objects. Gestalt principles of visual organization state that objects near each other, with same background, connected to each other, or having similar appearance are perceived as belonging to a group
Refers to page links that appear on every page, usually in the
header or footer. It provides site‐wide access to universal
content or functions.
Visual elements on a screen that help the user understand the content. May also provide aesthetic "feel" to the interface. The different types of graphics include:
Navigation and control graphics
Data and content graphics
Marketing & e‐Commerce graphics
A system of horizontal and vertical lines providing the
underlying structure for page layout and design.
Brief descriptive text provided as an introduction to more detailed content. Usually presented in larger point size or bold to make it distinct from the detailed content.
Attention‐grabbing hooks (journalistic hooks) are a special kind of headline intended to capture the reader's attention by piquing their curiosity rather than conveying introductory content.
Established principles of design and best practices in interface design, used as a method of solving usability problems by using rules of thumb acquired from human factors experience.
Heuristic Evaluation / Review
Also known as an expert review. Systematic inspection of a user interface design, measuring it against a set of usability heuristics in order to identify and prioritize usability problems. Comparison of a site with a very short and simple set of general principles. Heuristic reviews are quick and tend to catch a majority of the problems that will be encountered by users. However, expert reviews seldom use real end‐users, so they may miss some interface issues.
Demonstrates the relationship between the time it takes
someone to make a decision and the number of possible choices he or she has. More choices will increase decision time.
Also known as Hub‐and‐Spoke design. Navigation structure
where the user navigates down into one area of the design,
then back to the main screen. Used when the user does not frequently have to navigate between areas of the design.
Hierarchical Structures (In Information Architecture)
A set of various levels of groups and subgroups for categorizing items, often used to organize the content on a web site.
The architectural structure of an interface design. Most easily
seen with a diagram of the entire design, all its pages, and their inter‐relationships.
High‐Level Structure of a design showing its pages and their inter‐relationships
In journalism, a hook is a technique used for writing headlines to grab the reader's attention. For example, a question: Would you like to lose ten pounds this week?
Prototypes that display a wide range of features without fully
implementing all of them. Horizontal prototypes provide
insights into users' understanding of relationships across a range of features.
The frequency of the wavelength of color; what we normally refer to as the color of an object.
Various hues in a color palette
Human Factors Psychology
The study of the predispositions and constraints in human
cognition, perceptual and motor systems in the context of interface development. That is, exploration of ways to develop safe and efficient technology and other artifacts such that they provide the best fit for human interaction.
Hybrid Navigation Model (Hybrid Structure)
The combination of basic navigation models (e.g., a hierarchical drill‐down with a persistent model) that supports a user's task flow. Hybrid structures are typical of complex designs and often strive to flatten the information hierarchy to reduce the number of steps to content.
Hybrid Navigation Model using a combination of basic navigation models
Hypertext Structures (In Information Architecture)
Cross‐linked structures within a Web site or application. Hypertext structures are typically used to enhance navigation within hierarchical silos when the silos are not discrete.
Structure of pages linked with hypertext
A type of graphic representing an action or object. Icon
graphics are also used to augment navigation provided by links. They are different from graphics that purely offer content or add aesthetic brand value. They are usually selectable.
A graphic that contains selectable links or target areas.
Imperial Measurement System
A measurement system involving the use of yards, feet, and inches. Used by the United States and some English‐speaking countries. The rest of the world uses the metric system.
A data‐saving feature that automatically saves data in the
memory while it is entered and does not require the user to explicitly perform a save action.
Supplemental navigation that allows the user to select a letter
of the alphabet and see content available that begins with that
Indirect User Data
User‐centered data gathering methods that do not involve
face‐to‐face interactions with the users. Data may originate from surveys, user analysts, or marketing efforts.
Part of the conceptual design stage primarily associated with
defining an organization for site content (but can include characterizing task flow or task relationships within a content organization). Includes the processes of defining site hierarchies, content organization, and labeling schemes for all types of menu systems, and the techniques for creating and evaluating them.
When the color of an object, such as text, is not different
enough from the page's background color, the user may have difficulty seeing the object.
A term given to a set of design areas that focuses on the
interaction value of content, as opposed to its presentation or
information value. The interaction topics include user interface controls, error handling, and feedback systems. The term "interaction design" is intended to differentiate these topics from other topics for purposes of evaluation and development.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
An interface system that accepts human voice as input mechanism, translates it into recognizable commands, and reacts accordingly.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
A worldwide umbrella organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, that establishes non‐proprietary standards. In the United States, the ISO is represented by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The process of generalizing a product so that it can handle
multiple languages and cultural conventions without the need for re‐design. It is the process of designing the implementation of a product that is as culturally and technically neutral as possible, and that can then be localized easily for a specific culture or cultures.
One‐on‐one interactions between end‐users and usability analysts, designed to elicit the users' conceptual model of a system, the tasks and task flows, or other issues related to design. Direct interviews are the best way to capture user‐ centered data.
A private network, based on Internet technology, providing vital information to employees of a company or organization.
Inverted Pyramid Writing
A form of writing where conclusions are presented right at the beginning or top of the pyramid, and the details and fine points at the bottom. This enables the reader to stop at any moment without missing the main points of the document.
Any shape that appears to have less symmetry on one or more axes.
Testing repeatedly as the design converges on a proper
Joint Advisory Design (JAD) Sessions
Meetings in which developers and users convene to discuss aspects of an interface under development. Sometimes called facilitated workshops.
Adjusting the amount of space between characters so that the text displays with optimal legibility (or with the desired effect).
Training that provides information about a particular subject through lectures consisting of a broad outline of the topics involved. This is meant only for creating awareness of the subject.
The selection and placement of labels that best accommodate navigation.
A page reached through a direct link from another page, email, or advertisement.
Individuals who are slower to use new technologies. They are typically more challenging to design for, because they tend to be more distracted by poor interface usability.
Graphics that help delineate, group, or
divide content. A type of graphic designed for the purpose of organizing content, making it easy to comprehend or scan. Layout graphics are
typically subtle and are least commented on by users. They can be used to support a brand or theme.
Leading is the vertical space between lines of text. Also called line spacing. It directs the eye horizontally along the text line.
It can be extra, optimal, or crunched
The last node in a tree structure that contains no further data or links. In navigation terms, it is the last page in any hierarchical structure. It is farthest from the home page and does not lead to any other page.
A usability metric that measures how easy it is to begin
productively using an application or interface. That is, how much if any training is required?
The light or dark appearance of a color, i.e., the amount of perceived light present.
A type of survey question where respondents are asked to rate the level on which they agree or disagree with a given statement on a numeric scale, e
.g., 1 - 7, where 1 = strongly agree and 7 = strongly disagree.
A line placed strategically, usually between every five or six rows of text, to aid visual scanning.
Refers to the number of characters per line, not the numeric measurement of the line.
Text that navigates the user to another screen, or takes an action. Links are primarily used for navigation and have a consistent visual presentation that is distinct from "normal" text.
An interface design technique in which the
horizontal layout of content changes based on how the user adjusts their application or browser window.
Live Site Analysis
Refers to a range of techniques used to evaluate live Web sites including expert reviews (for general
design issues and consistency checks), user performance testing, split-site studies, surveys, server log analysis and competitive analysis.
The process of adapting a product to meet the linguistic, cultural, and other requirements of a
specific target environment or market.
Paper, PowerPoint®, or other non-interactive mock-ups of an interface developed early in design. Useful for evaluating the effectiveness of the navigation infrastructure and labels.
Long Term Memory
The capacity for storing large amounts of information in the mind for indefinite periods of time.
The measurement of intensity of light. The subjective
experience is brightness.
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