Evaluating off-the-shelf products

16 Jun 2009 - 9:21am
6 years ago
4 replies
868 reads
Craig Melbourne

Has anybody on the list had any experience of evaluating off-the-shelf
products for usability and quality of user experience.

I'm working with a company whose philosophy is to, where possible,
buy a product rather than build. The evaluation of such products is
based on supporting business processes and conforming to technology
infrastructure (and, of course, cost). They are now seeing the need
to include UX in the evaluation process but are not sure how.

I've done a bit of work with them on techniques for gathering user
research and how that data informs an iterative design process.
However, 'user centered procurement' is not something I have real
experience with.

I have recommended expert reviews and usability exercises during the
evaluation phase, but this isn't neccesary viable at the early
stages when there are a large number for products.

Is there a standard set of questions for vendors?

Is anyone aware of any good books/papers on a methodology around this


16 Jun 2009 - 1:18pm
Lorenzo Chavez

I have spent a lot of my career working with companies that want and have incorporated commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products into their solution. What is crucial, is to make sure that the development team is able to either modify the COTS coding or be able to apply a presentation layer to the product.

No amount of usability will be able to change something that is hard coded into a product that is not able to be modified. In some instances the company developing the COTS product will work with a vendor, but the changes are subject to their business model and their timeframe causing changes not to be implemented in their entirety.

User Experience can take a look at the COTS product and run their own heuristic evaluation and perform a gap analysis of the product to determine how similar it is to the companies UX standards.

No COTS product will be perfect, but there are acceptable deviations. The deviations need to be documented and evaluated to determine if the actual costs of using a particular COTS product. It all goes into the product selection.

Hope this helps

18 Jun 2009 - 8:12am
Jen Hocko

I presented a methodology for this at the UPA conference last week.
I'd be happy to share my slides and information. If anyone is
interested, just send me an email.

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