Software Usability Engineer Job
Leidos - Alexandria, VA

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Software Usability Engineer (Job Number: 601365)

The Leidos Intelligence Systems Group has an opening for a Software Usability Engineer on a program supporting a large DoD customer. This opportunity will support user centered (UCD) philosophy providing direct support to customer mission.

The user centered (UCD) philosophy focuses on the needs and goals of the user throughout a product’s entire lifecycle. It is based on understanding the (domain of) work or play in which people are engaged and in which they interact with systems. Good user experience is a key factor in the success of intermediated situations. UCD starts at concept ideation and runs through design, development, deployment, and summative evaluation and assessment. The UCD process draws its power from two distinguishing characteristics:

1) Design and development are distinct processes.

In the user centered design approach, product design is done prior to the start of any development efforts. The user centered design approach shortens the overall development process by expediting the design, test, and revision cycles.

UCD employs rapid turnaround, low cost techniques to develop designs.

2) Designs are vetted with both end users and stakeholders alike throughout the design process to ensure the validity and completeness of the proposed design.

A small subset of the user base will provide feedback on the usability – and accuracy - of proposed designs while there is still opportunity to make easy adjustments. Once the design is complete, development proceeds with the assurance that the design will support users’ goals and tasks.

Once development begins, there are less iteration of costly changes thanks to things being figured out and documented in the design phase.

Bachelor's degree in related field

10+ years related experience, of which at least seven must be specialized.

Current TS/SCI clearance with the ability to qualify for a TS.SCI poly

Discovery and Research.

Discovery. Immerse yourself in the domain of the design problem. Learn about common patterns, read about solutions and understand the context of the problem. Several things can help with this process: User Research, Task Research, Product Research. There are several different user centered research and observation approaches that help develop an understanding of the users, the environment in which they work, the tasks they perform, and how they currently perform the tasks. Below is a subset of these tasks that would lend themselves well.

  • User Surveys/Interviews: User surveys are tools that are used to talk to a sample of the population. A survey is a representative sample of that population. Interviewing users is an important part of the design process because it provides us with the opportunity to talk with them directly and gain insight and validate our ideas. If we have a solid understanding of what users need to achieve and the challenges they face, we can make better design decisions and craft stronger solutions.
  • Field Observation (Contextual Inquiry): Contextual inquiry involves observing what people do as they go about their day, telling not what they say but what they do. It’s useful for creating a product that supports users’ actual (as opposed to assumed) activities.
  • User Profiles/Persona Development: Persona development supports the design process by identifying and prioritizing the roles and characteristics of key users, then creating composite individuals to represent the key users. Persona traits and characteristics are formed by disaggregating data gathered and developing evidence-based profiles of your users. The product team forms a unified vision of the intended uses of a design through reference to agreed-on personas.
Product Design (Synthesis and Ideation)

In order to move rapidly from a design concept to a design in full detail, assorted types of artifacts are quickly produced in order to provide visualization and allow for feedback on proposed designs. Generate and document ideas. Utilize techniques like brainstorming sketching and mood boards to set design direction.

  • Storyboards: Storyboards build upon the creation of scenarios. Storyboarding combines a narrative with accompanying images that allows designers to display a product’s features in a context.
  • Wireframes: Wireframes have played an increasingly leading role in the modern Web development process; they are like blueprints for architecture. The purpose is to communicate the order, structure, layout, navigation and organization of content, and NOT the visual aspects of the design such as imagery, color and typography. They provide a simple way of validating user interface and layout and are cheap and fast to produce. The underlying value of doing wireframes first (before mockups) is building a prototype, which allows you to test, correct mistakes, and validate the key design decisions with users in the cheapest way possible.
  • Card Sorts/Affinity Diagrams: Card sorting and affinity diagramming involves a bunch of cards, each representing a different function and/or content type from the site/application being studied. Users (card sorting) or designers (affinity diagramming) are then asked to organize those cards into groups that make sense to them. From there it becomes easy to identify patterns in the way people organize information.
  • Screen Flow Diagrams: Screen flow diagrams are the first step towards moving a design from the conceptual stage to the physical stage. The UX designer works from product requirements/findings to diagram the order of screens that will make up the user experience.
  • Mockups: Mockups communicate the visual aspects of the design that wireframes don’t. These include imagery, color and typography. A mockup will convey a sense of what the design will look like prior to programming/development. Mockups focus more on form versus content.
Design Evaluation

Throughout the design cycle, we obtain feedback from users to ensure the design meets users’ needs. Relevant techniques assess the suitability and usability of proposed designs and include both user and non-user based techniques. Test designs with target users to find out if there are any unintended problems. Both quantitative and qualitative techniques can be used to evaluate designs.

  • Cognitive Walkthrough: Cognitive Walkthrough is a method used to determine any potential usability failures within a system. Cognitive walkthrough starts with a task analysis that specifies the sequence of steps or actions required by a user to accomplish a specified task. The system response to each action is noted. The designers and developers of the software then walk through the steps as a group this enables an agreed view. They ask themselves a set of defined questions at each step to determine all the potential outcomes. Afterwards a report of potential issues is compiled and the project team has a clear focus on the various user pathways ranging from obvious success paths to paths that will fail in achieving a goal.
  • Heuristic Evaluation: A Heuristic Evaluation, or Usability Audit, is an evaluation of an interface by one or more Human Factors experts. Evaluators measure the usability, efficiency, and effectiveness of the interface based on 10 usability heuristics originally defined by Jakob Nielsen in 1994.
Leidos Overview: Leidos is an applied solutions company focused on markets that are seeing converging business and technological trends, and address basic, enduring human needs: defense and national security, health and life sciences, and energy, engineering and infrastructure. The Company's approximately 20,000 employees serve customers in the U.S. Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, other U.S. Government civil agencies and commercial health and engineering markets.

Leidos is an Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/D/V.

Job Posting: Jan 30, 2014, 11:33:46 AM
Primary Location: United States-VA-ALEXANDRIA

Clearance Level Must Currently Possess: Top Secret/SCI

Clearance Level Must Be Able to Obtain: Top Secret/SCI Full Scope Polygraph

Potential for Teleworking: No

Travel: Yes, 10% of the time

Shift: Day Job

Schedule: Full-time

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Leidos is a science and technology solutions leader working to address some of the world’s toughest challenges in national security,...