I wrote the two posts above on my findings from my first usability test, about two months ago, but I’ve decided to stop posting about it for two reasons.
The first reason is that, clearly, my posts would make more sense to you if you knew which brand or product it was, together with screen shots of the site and a copy of the full report for you to download.
I can’t do this at the moment, because, well, the website belongs to one of my clients. And it wouldn’t be fair to them if I plastered their dirty ‘Internet’ linen all over my blog.
The second reason is that I think it would be more interesting to you, as a reader, to know what is was like to actually do a usability test, instead of telling you what the end result was.
You can probably find thousands of usability reports to look through from the Nielsen Norman Group, and those reports are probably a lot more detailed than mine. Of course, there are ‘free’ usability reports that you can find via search engines, and some of those are pretty good examples, too.
To conclude, I think usability tests are an important part of developing your skills and understanding of the Web.
Perhaps information architects can plan and organize usability tests, but other people in your agency like designers, writers and programmers, should be equally aware of the process, too.
The biggest thing that you can get out of it is the knowledge that you’re immediately in touch with the people who are going to be using it; you’ve observed their nuances, you’ve seen how they perceive your site and you’ve listened all of their concerns.
That means you’re ready to start designing it for them.
After that, you simply need to repeat the tests until you get it right.
The other thing I enjoyed about conducting the tests, which weren’t all that different from the controlled-environment psychology tests that I had to do in college, is that you can finish them real quick.
I took my own sweet time making sure everything was in order before I ran the test. I took about two weeks to prepare the test, conduct 5 test sessions and compile the data.
Jakob Nielsen can teach you how to do one in three days.
Usability tests are cheap and easy to get done, and best of all, can be successfully incorporated into the web development process without slowing it down.
So, what are you waiting for?
If your clients want quality assurance, I can’t think of a better alternative than web usability testing.