Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quick and Dirty Usability Testing: Step Away from the Book

Usability testing by the book vs. off the books ...

"People often say to me, "I want to do usability testing at my company, but there isn't time to do it the way it should be done, using all the steps in your book. So, since we can't do it 'right,' we don't do it at all." They usually continue by saying how depressing that situation is. They're stuck.

The Book they are talking about is The Handbook of Usability Testing, the second edition of which I wrote with Jeff Rubin. Wiley published it in April 2008. It's 350+ pages of, as you might expect, instructions on how to plan, design, and conduct effective usability tests (just like the subtitle says).

But in the same way any good high school algebra teacher did, Jeff and I give readers the "long way" first. The idea is that after they learn the classic way, they can figure out shortcuts and variations that work for them and still get the "right" answer. The point is to do enough to find out what they need to in order to inform the design they're working on, and no more than that.

You don't have to do it by the book to get useful data. But it is different data from what you get from a formal method. There are trade-offs to be made. You do have to understand where the data came from and what it means. You can conduct usability tests that are quick, cheap, and generate all the insights about your users and your design that you can handle.

So, I suggest my readers ditch the book (after they've bought it and read it), and do whatever level of testing works for their situation. I mentioned trade offs. Here are some things to think about when considering no testing, by-the-book testing, and just-right testing."    (Continued via UIE, Dana CHhisnell)    [Usability Resources]


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