Back in 2006 while I was working at UserWorks, the Government Accountability Office asked us to assess whether there were any inherent usability problems with credit card disclosures. These are the documents card issuers use to get you to apply for a credit card and explain the terms once you’ve signed up. There were, as you can imagine, serious usability issues. But the interesting thing about this project was that we used three different methods to identify the issues: readability formulas, an expert review using plain language guidelines and a usability test.
Later that year the GAO took the usability report, along with four other research efforts, and wrote a combined report CREDIT CARDS: Increased Complexity in Rates and Fees Heightens Need for More Effective Disclosures to Consumers (pdf) to the Senate subcommittee.
Fast forward to 2009. The Federal Reserve has passed new regulations banning certain practices. Congress has passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (or Credit CARD Act) of 2009 which institutes a whole host of consumer protections, including banning universal default — where paying late on other bills can make your credit card rate go up — and double-cycle billing — which effectively eliminates the grace period for people who paid off a balance in the previous month.
I gave the presentation, Using Multiple Methods to Assess the Usability of Credit Card Disclosures, at the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) Conference 2009 in Sydney, Australia. And a big thanks to the Plain Language Foundation for sponsoring my presentation. If not for the foundation, I wouldn’t have been able to attend.
If this presentation looks at all familiar, I used an earlier version of it at UPA-DC’s User Focus Conference in 2006.
Have you used multiple methods to assess the usability of an interface? What methods did you use? And how did that work out for you?