Guideline-Based Expert Walkthrough (GBEW): A Comprehensive Approach to Evaluating Accessibility, Usability and Inclusion

Published: 01/12/2017


The Guideline-Based Expert Walkthrough (GBEW) method is a comprehensive approach for evaluating accessibility, usability, and inclusion in user interfaces. By combining expert insights with established web guidelines and domain-specific best practices, the GBEW method provides a structured framework for UX practitioners to conduct evaluations across diverse domains, including web applications, mobile applications, and other digital interfaces. Despite some challenges and limitations, the GBEW method holds significant potential for fostering more inclusive user experiences and serves as a valuable addition to the UX practitioner’s toolkit.

1. Introduction

1.1 Background and motivation

The importance of accessibility and usability in user interfaces cannot be overstated, as they significantly influence user satisfaction, engagement, and overall product success. Traditional evaluation methods employed by UX practitioners often lack a structured framework that combines expert insights with established web guidelines. This paper introduces the Guideline-Based Expert Walkthrough (GBEW) method as a comprehensive approach for evaluating accessibility and usability in user interfaces.

1.2 Objectives and research questions

The primary objective of this research paper is to propose the GBEW method to UX practitioners, demonstrating its potential as a structured evaluation framework for user interfaces. The research questions addressed in this paper include:

  • How can the GBEW method be implemented in practice?
  • What are the potential applications, benefits, and limitations of the GBEW method?
  • How does the GBEW method compare with existing evaluation methods?

2. Literature Review

2.1 Expert walkthroughs

Expert walkthroughs are a widely-used method in the UX field, where domain experts systematically evaluate a user interface by simulating user tasks and identifying potential usability issues. These walkthroughs offer valuable insights into the user interface but often lack a standardized set of guidelines to ensure a comprehensive assessment.

2.2 Web accessibility and usability guidelines

Established web guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), provide a set of principles and techniques for making web content more accessible and usable. These guidelines have been instrumental in guiding UX practitioners in designing and evaluating user interfaces. However, their application in expert walkthroughs has been limited.

3. Guideline-Based Expert Walkthrough (GBEW) Method

3.1 Overview of the GBEW method

The GBEW method is a novel approach that combines expert walkthroughs with established web guidelines to create a structured evaluation framework. This method involves assembling a multidisciplinary team, developing a custom guideline set, training evaluators, conducting independent walkthroughs, documenting findings, consolidating and prioritizing issues, developing an action plan, and monitoring progress and iteration.

3.2 Steps in the GBEW process

The GBEW process comprises eight steps, providing a clear structure for UX practitioners to follow when evaluating user interfaces. These steps ensure a comprehensive and systematic evaluation, enabling the identification and resolution of accessibility and usability issues.

3.3 Customizing guidelines for specific domains

A key strength of the GBEW method is its adaptability to diverse domains. By combining established web guidelines with domain-specific best practices, UX practitioners can tailor the guideline set to meet the unique requirements of their product, ensuring a more relevant and targeted evaluation.

4. Applications of GBEW

4.1 Evaluating web applications and websites

The GBEW method can be applied to the evaluation of web applications and websites, assessing their accessibility and usability against the custom guideline set. This approach ensures a comprehensive assessment of the user interface, identifying areas for improvement.

4.2 Assessing mobile applications

Mobile applications present unique challenges in terms of accessibility and usability. The GBEW method can be adapted to evaluate mobile applications, ensuring they cater to diverse user needs and preferences.

4.3 Investigating other digital interfaces

The GBEW method can also be applied to other digital interfaces, such as virtual reality environments, smart TVs, and wearables. By adapting the guideline set to suit the specific context, UX practitioners can ensure a comprehensive evaluation of accessibility and usability across various platforms.

5. Benefits of GBEW

5.1 Comprehensive evaluation

The GBEW method offers a comprehensive evaluation of accessibility, usability, and inclusion in user interfaces by combining expert insights with established web guidelines and domain-specific best practices. This comprehensive assessment ensures that diverse user needs and preferences are addressed, fostering a more inclusive user experience.

5.2 Structured process

The GBEW method follows a structured process, providing a clear framework for UX practitioners to conduct evaluations. This structured approach ensures consistency in evaluations and facilitates the identification and prioritization of issues, ultimately leading to improved user experiences.

5.3 Customizable for diverse domains

The adaptability of the GBEW method allows UX practitioners to tailor the evaluation process to suit the specific context of their product, whether it be a web application, mobile application, or other digital interfaces. By customizing the guideline set, practitioners can ensure that the evaluation is relevant and targeted, addressing the unique challenges of their domain.

6. Limitations and Challenges

6.1 Expertise and training requirements

The GBEW method requires a multidisciplinary team of experts with knowledge in accessibility, usability, and inclusion. Training evaluators to understand and apply the custom guideline set can be resource-intensive, posing a potential challenge for organizations with limited resources.

6.2 Ensuring consistent evaluations

Ensuring consistent evaluations across experts can be challenging, as individual biases and perspectives may influence the assessment process. To mitigate this issue, UX practitioners should establish a clear set of evaluation criteria and consider conducting multiple independent walkthroughs to validate the findings.

6.3 Balancing customization and standardization

While customizing the guideline set for specific domains is a strength of the GBEW method, striking a balance between customization and maintaining adherence to established web guidelines can be challenging. UX practitioners should be mindful of this balance to ensure that the evaluation remains comprehensive and addresses the core principles of accessibility, usability, and inclusion.

Conclusion and Future Directions

The Guideline-Based Expert Walkthrough (GBEW) method offers a promising approach for evaluating accessibility, usability, and inclusion in user interfaces, combining expert insights with established web guidelines and domain-specific best practices. Although the method faces some challenges and limitations, its potential to provide comprehensive evaluations and foster more inclusive user experiences makes it a valuable addition to the UX practitioner’s toolkit.

Future research should explore the effectiveness of the GBEW method in various domains and contexts, as well as investigate ways to optimize the training and consistency of evaluations. Additionally, continued development and refinement of the custom guideline sets will be crucial in ensuring that the GBEW method remains relevant and effective in addressing the ever-evolving challenges of digital user experience design.