An interview with Rolf Molich

About Rolf Molich

Rolf Molich owns and manages DialogDesign, a small Danish usability consultancy that he founded in 1993. Rolf conceived and coordinated the Comparative Usability Evaluation studies CUE-1 through CUE-9, in which more than 100 professional usability teams tested or reviewed the same applications. Rolf was a principal investigator in the Nielsen Norman Group’s large-scale usability test of 20 US e-commerce websites, involving more than 60 users. He has worked with usability since 1984 and wrote the best-selling Danish book User Friendly Computer Systems, of which roughly 30,000 copies have been sold. The book is now available in English, with the title Usable Web Design. Rolf is also the co-inventor of the heuristic evaluation method (with Jakob Nielsen). Rolf is an external lecturer at the University of Copenhagen. Rolf graduated as a software engineer (MSc in software engineering) from the Technical University of Denmark in 1974. From 1974 to 1997, he worked as a project manager and software methods specialist for several Danish companies.


Main points

  • Stakeholders are OUR users.
  • The most engaging way to engage stakeholders is having them observe a usability test. Then have them share their observations. This way you establish ownership by stakeholders.
  • I use the KJ method (see chapter 4 of It's Our Research)
  • Five participants are enough to drive a useful usability testing cycle. Explain that the perfect is the enemy of good. Usually you get excellent results by testing five users, implementing results, testing five more, and so on.
  • If they insist they want more than five participants, do it. They will ask to stop after they see nothing new is coming out of it after the 7th, or 8th participant.
  • It is not often that I can follow up with what happened after I handed my research report. When I do get back to a website I worked on, I usually find that many of my recommendations have not been implemented. It could be the client’s fault, but in some cases it points back to myself. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in communicating the results. I consider this as a learning opportunity.
  • I deliver traditional reports by email. I find my colleagues deliver PowerPoint reports. I am a bit conservative and stick to the highly usable old-fashioned report, even following a KJ method.
  • I always include recommendations in my reports. When my clients hire me, they also want me to provide examples of how problems can be solved. An example has two goals - to provide a possible solution to the problem and provide information to better understand the problem. Read my article “Recommendations on Recommendations” (UX Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2008).
  • Make it their baby. Involve them actively in the studies you are conducting. Maybe they won't have time to participate but give them a chance. Involve them in planning, task creation, setting up participant profiles, make it easy for them to observe the sessions, run tests at convenient times for them, let them talk with participant.
  • Swallow your own medicine. Eat your own dogfood. Practice usability. Ensure all of your communication is highly usable and that you listen very carefully to any criticism. Never dismiss it.

Fun fact about Rolf and the book: Rolf is both opening and closing the book. He is the author of the book's Foreword and the case study that appears in the Epilogue of the book.