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the180 - DIY Usability Testing, part 1

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Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing, part 1

first of three the180 topics on this subject

Why do Usability Testing?

  • Identify practical changes that will significantly improve the results of your projects.
  • Identify changes that won't waste your time and money.
  • Minimize impractical change requests that come up at the last minute.
  • The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
    • Focus your users and the project team on the basic project success.
  • If little or nothing can be changed before your project is released, usability testing is still valuable.
    • It's better to be forewarned of likely problems.
    • Training and documentation can focus on what users need to know the most.
    • These results can feed future improvement projects.

Core principles for usability testing

  • Test the most common and critical uses of the technology.
  • Test with people that are representative of the actual users.
  • Make the testers feel that they can do no wrong.
  • Conduct the test objectively - don't lead the user.
  • Use realistic data, user interfaces, and situations.
  • Observe with an open mind.
  • Look for underlying issues from your test results.

Planning the usability test

  • Who will work on the planning, the observing, the testing, and the analysis?
  • Why did your organization create this technology?
    • The basic business reasons
    • The basic work being supported
    • Answer in non-technical, very succinct, plain language
  • Who will use your technology?
    • The most critical user group or groups
    • Important characteristics of these users
  • What are you most worried about?
    • What is the brightest "happy day" picture the day after your
      technology is released?
    • What is the worst nightmare?
  • Identify what tasks you want to test

Write the scenarios

  • Refer to example.
  • A scenario provides a story and a role for the tester to act on.
  • A scenario might test only one task using your technology, or it might test several tasks.
  • Include motivation - why someone would perform the tasks.
  • Include background information - what they need to know to get the work done.
    • Give them little or no information about how to use the technology.
    • Tell them how to recognize when they have finished the scenario.
  • Briefly restate the desired action and results.
  • Write and re-write the scenario to make it as short and readable as possible.

Recruit your testers.

  • Write down the qualifications of the people you want.
  • Get people that are as reasonably close to the real users as possible.
  • Finding the right people always involves some compromise.
  • If a budget permits, the best resource is a marketing research company who recruits people for focus groups, etc.
  • You can try recruiting strangers on your own.
  • Other people in your company might be OK, especially customer service representatives.
  • Family and friends sometimes work as well.
  • Avoid using anyone on the project team, especially anyone involved with the
    screen designs.
  • Most testers should receive some kind of compensation or gift.

continued on DIY Usability Testing, part 2

Posted June 14, 2002
Edited July 19, 2002
By Joe Grant

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