Obstacles for the Integration of HCI Practices into Software Engineering Development Processes
Xavier Ferre (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain), Natalia Juristo (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain) and Ana M. Moreno (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain)
Copyright: © 2006
Usability has become a critical quality factor in software systems, and it has been receiving increasing attention over the last few years in the SE (software engineering) field. HCI techniques aim to increase the usability level of the final software product, but they are applied sparingly in mainstream software development, because there is very little knowledge about their existence and about how they can contribute to the activities already performed in the development process. There is a perception in the software development community that these usability-related techniques are to be applied only for the development of the visible part of the UI (user interface) after the most important part of the software system (the internals) has been designed and implemented. Nevertheless, the different paths taken by HCI and SE regarding software development have recently started to converge. First, we have noted that HCI methods are being described more formally in the direction of SE software process descriptions. Second, usability is becoming an important issue on the SE agenda, since the software products user base is ever increasing and the degree of user computer literacy is decreasing, leading to a greater demand for usability improvements in the software market. However, the convergence of HCI and SE has uncovered the need for an integration of the practices of both disciplines. This integration is a must for the development of highly usable systems. In the next two sections, we will look at how the SE field has viewed usability. Following upon this, we address the existing approaches to integration. We will then detail the pending issues that stand in the way of successful integration efforts, concluding with the presentation of an approach that might be successful in the integration endeavor.