Usability testing, like you care…

When I started out in the software industry usability testing consisted of getting someone, anyone, who was not actually involved in the development of the software to try to use it. If the person had trouble using the software then the development team would debate whether or not this was due to the fact that the tester was an idiot. If it was determined that the tester was not an idiot (yeah, like that ever happened), or not too much of one, then we would think about maybe, possibly, changing the software design. We were a bunch of hacks! What can I say? The industry was young, we were young and there was no one around to tell us who the real idiots were.

Now all that has changed (now we know we are the idiots). These days any designer worth the crumbs stuck down in their keyboard gets that the user’s experience of a software application, or a web site, is what really matters. We’ve changed the way we think about design to bring the user more friendly and more intuitive user interfaces. We’ve realized that we can’t just please the boss (or the client) anymore. Now we’ve got to meet the user on their level and we’ve got to make sure the user has an easy time interacting with our design.

These days there’s lots written about usability testing. One of the best books for a newcomer to the subject is Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think”. It’s short, well-written and very usable itself.

But I just found another resource which is WebCredible’s list of 8 guidelines for usability testing. It provides a straightforward outline of the basic steps involved in setting up a usability testing session. So now we really have no excuse. Damn I miss the dark ages!

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