USER EXPERIENCE AND USABILITY ENGINEERING EDUCATION IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Austria offer study programs oriented on the demand of the labor market and a specific professional field. Working professionals are also a target group for UAS as well as traditional full-time students.
For many years’ usability ranks among the most desired features for all types of software. Most companies agree that usability is one of the most critical success factors. However many customers complain about the usability of the software they get. In many cases customers say software is hindering them in fulfilling essential tasks of the work they have to do.
A survey completed by some 100 companies reveals a surprising fact. Most companies know software usability is important, but do not have the necessary knowledge and/or processes to implement usability. Also in many cases people involved in software engineering seem to believe usability is something which can be implemented by just changing the way the user interface works. Therefore it seems to be justified to complete the list of features, test the usability and apply some changes to the interface to implement “usability”; a way of developing software which seldom yields the desired results.
Teaching usability or user experience proved to be challenging. Software engineers tend to believe there should be a rigid and detailed list of feature they have to implement. Only in the process of dealing with the real end user the authors found a simple way to make them understand how the implicit knowledge and desires of users can be accessed and finally be transformed into software functionality. This process has to occur at some time during the education. This is the reason way the authors introduced a project based approach to interface design.
One possibility to improve software usability is to include appropriate elements, such as the above mentioned one, into relevant study programs. During the last ten years the authors designed and implemented three study programs to include usability and user experience. Details will be given.
The newly designed master’s degree program “user experience management” focusses on the needs of software engineering companies by following two major approaches. On the one hand all the usability and UX basics, methods and best practices are being taught to ensure the necessary background knowledge and fundamentals. The lectures in the first two semesters therefore concentrate on usability in general, human perception, prototyping, user-based and expert methods as well as requirements engineering. On the other hand management skills are necessary to integrate appropriate methods into the development cycle and the right time. Therefore the third semester concentrates on management activities, consulting and negotiation as well as presentation and moderation skills. The concluding master’s thesis in the fourth semester combines both approaches with scientific and academic work.