Convergent Usability Evaluation, p. 4
The Challenge: Ensuring Usability
Because of the aggressive development schedule, EIRS was designed and assembled quickly, making heavy use of open-source software and ideas that team members brought into the project from their experience.
User interface and usability experts joined the project only after design and development had already begun. This ruled out a conventional front-loaded user-centered process. The early EIRS team did start with requirements analysis and use-cases, but developed minimal conceptual design or UI design specifications prior to starting implementation.
The UI and usability team usually found itself in the position of playing “catch-up”: trying to ensure the usability of an application for which design was being done mainly by programmers, and on which implementation was proceeding rapidly. Therefore, usability evaluation played a more prominent role in ensuring EIRS’ usability than did conventional up-front interaction design methods.
However, even conventional evaluation methods  were
impractical. This was due to: a) the frantic pace of the project,
b) the low budget, and c) the fact that the only call centers set up
before election day were 3000 miles from the usability team.
These factors ruled out even one round of formal usability testing
prior to EIRS’ deployment in the election. Normally, that would
be regarded by HCI professionals as a recipe for disaster, especially
for such an important, high-profile application. However, the
usability team understood that the methods we typically use in
developing commercial systems were infeasible. We adapted.
We took advantage of any opportunities to assess and improve EIRS’
usability. We minimized our impact on the project by piggybacking
on already-planned activities.
Last modified December 22, 2005 05:38 PM