Posts tagged with "user testing"

The longer you wait, the less you test

The following is a guest post by Reto Lämmler, CoFounder and CEO of TestingTime. Enjoy the read.

To get interaction design right, we prototype and test with users. It mostly starts with pen and paper, sketching a first prototype which gets tested with friends and coworkers. Once the first interaction flaws are discovered, we iterate towards HiFi prototypes using tools like Pidoco. Every iteration requires user testing in theory, but do we really do that? Do we take the time to recruit the right people?

I have done many prototypes and user tests in the past. For me, the best user tests are always those which give me the big “AHA” moment. When I discover a problem which I never thought would be a problem for test users. It’s an exciting moment and reinforces how important user testing is.

testingtime

Though, I discovered one interesting thing. Interaction and visual designers are not always keen to test their prototypes with users. Everyone talks about it but not so many really do it. Why is this? I have come to 2 conclusions:

We want to make it perfect, before we show it

We constantly think, it’s not good enough before we show it to anyone. The longer we wait, the more we get stuck in this mindset. We become afraid of getting critical feedback which may throw our work upside down and the invested time turns into waste. Our assumption of “perfect” is based on our mental model and usually doesn’t match with the one from your target users. Break that barrier as early as possible and make it a habit to show and user test your work starting with your first scribbles.

It’s too cumbersome or we are simply too lazy

We know that we should carry out user tests, but we don’t practice what we preach. Sometimes we don’t have time and postpone it for later. Recruiting test users can be very time consuming and cumbersome. This is why we invented a crowd-based recruiting service called www.testingtime.net. It’s takes you less than 5 minutes to order your desired test users for moderated remote user tests. It’s not only fast, it’s also inexpensive. Using TestingTime, you can carry out rapid user testing for every design iteration you go through.

Looking for test users for your next usability test?

If you need test users to test your Pidoco prototypes, why not try out TestingTime’s recruiting service to find test participants from your target audience without the usual hassle. Visit TestingTime or email support@pidoco.com for more information.

 

About the author: Reto Lämmler is CoFounder and CEO of TestingTime. He graduated with a BS in Computer Science and an MAS in Human Computer Interaction Design. Prior to TestingTime, Reto was Doodle’s VP Product Management. Reto also lived and worked for 6 years in the Silicon Valley, CA.

Why there is More to Usability than Just Checklists

The following is a guest post by Dominique Schmidt, UX consultant at Apliki. Enjoy the read.

Through our work as a Psychological IT-Consultancy for User Experience (UX) we are often confronted with the request to make sure the clients’ product “achieves overall usability”. Through further exploration of the expectations behind this assignment we usually come to the conclusion that people expect a checklist-like tool, to ensure they meet usability standards. Of course this somehow reflects the guidelines approach of the DIN EN ISO 9241-11 and a number of checklists aiming to give non UX professionals the opportunity to quickly enhance the usability of their product. Small measures can often change a lot for the better. Yet, this approach falls somewhat short of what real usability means. There is not one kind of usability. On the contrary, usability is highly dependent on the context of use of a product (DIN EN ISO 9241-11). Before we explore this notion further, let’s have a look at where this understanding of usability originates from.

What is in usability checklists?

The task of matching human behavior with machines is indeed a difficult one. For decades this question had been pretty much ignored and it is only in the relatively recent times of software development that the immense importance of this has gained widespread support. As a rule of thumb, one could say that the more potential mistakes there are for one topic, the easier it is to spot at least the most prominent ones. This also holds true for software usability. By following simple rules you can avoid the most common mistakes. This can be by avoiding certain UI elements that have proved to not work very well or by placing information in a structured format. These kinds of tips and tricks are especially well known because they can provide the answers to questions such as: “Does this work?” In addition, there are well known lists of usability heuristics (one of which is promoted by Jakob Nielsen). They provide more general guidelines to ensure “learnability” – defined as how easy it is for users to accomplish easy tasks on their first encounter with a design. The critical point is that these so-called heuristics do not work in a vacuum, but rather are dependent on the context of your software for valid application (remember the DIN EN ISO 9241-11). This leads us to the shortcoming of all- too simple usability rules.

 

Analysis of requirements, User Interface design, implementation, user test

What are you going to miss with usability checklists?

Software does not stand alone. It is built to fulfill a special set of tasks. These are to be done by a group of target users, bringing with them their very own skills, technology orientation, expectations and – not to forget – apprehensions. It does not end here. The product’s use will take place in situations loaded with influencing factors such as distracting noises, high stress-levels, shared office spaces or varying display sizes, to just name a few. All this (and more) is summed up in the context of use and without exaggeration it has to be named the central concept of user friendly software. It is only under the consideration of these factors, that the most important questions of true usability can be properly answered. To reframe the above question: “Does our product enable our target users in the specific situation of use to fulfill their tasks?”

How to get there?

The key to success in defining your specific usability goals lies in two factors: research and documentation. Asking the right questions and pulling together the best data available helps you gain a valid understanding of your users and their environment. This understanding is then put into artifacts such as personas, goal descriptions, scenarios and UI-prototypes ensuring the whole team shares a common understanding of the product’s focus. Using these documents as a basis for every decision and conducting user tests of your prototypes will make sure you achieve optimal usability.

Dominique Schmidt is a UX consultant at Apliki, giving workshops on the user- centered-design process and accompanying the development of software products. He writes about the psychology of usability engineering and UX design on the Apliki blog at http://www.apliki.de/uid/blog

Feel free to contact him in English or German at info@apliki.de