Monday, August 20, 2007

CUE: A Usability Testing Bake-Off

Usability testing is analogous to baking a pie ...

"Practicing usability testing has great similarities with baking an apple pie.

If you've never baked a pie and you're like most people, you'll probably learn from a friend or family member, such as Grandma, or you'll learn from a cookbook recipe or TV cooking show. The first few pies you bake—while still tasting pretty good—probably won't come out as good as you'd like, but, with practice, you'll get better and better.

As you continue to practice, you'll experiment—sometimes deliberately and sometimes through creative accidents, like leaving out a key ingredient—and from each experiment you'll learn more about what makes a great pie. As your pie baking skills become more developed, people will beg you to bake more pies and will show great excitement when another one comes out of the oven.

At least, that's been my experience with baking apple pies. Also, coincidentally, it's been my experience with usability testing.
The Parallels

Many folks learn usability testing from a colleague or they read about it in a book or attend a course. The first few tests they conducted—while producing interesting results—probably didn't come out as good as they would have liked. However, with practice, they got better and better.

As they continued to practice, they started to experiment and from each experiment, they learned more about what produces a success usability test. As their testing skills became more developed, their coworkers begged them to conduct more and more tests and showed great excitement with every new test.
Solitary Activity

Both baking apple pies and conducting usability tests are solitary activities, for the most part. The baker and the test organizer typically produce the results by themselves.

Rarely do we get to see how someone else bakes their pies. Rarely do we get to work alongside other usability test organizers to see how they do their work.

Therefore, we develop our craft by ourselves, only really learning from our own experiences. Because of our own trial and error, our testing techniques and skills evolve in a unique direction."    (Continued via UIE)    [Usability Resources]

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