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Usability. It’s Not Just for Hippies.

Posted by Jacob Creech on November 24th, 2010

I recently came across this great post from Marc Bitanga talking about usability, and why it’s not just for the touchy-feely people among us.

Amongst the other things he addressed in this article was a perception that many people seem to hold about usability testing drawing out your design and development process. As someone who is involved with usability testing on a day to day basis, I can say quite confidently that this isn’t so, and in fact using usability testing as part of our process can help speed things up and smooth things out to a very significant degree.

I gave an example in the comments section of Marcs site. Often people encounter the experience of ‘design by committee’ – usually there will be a number of decision makers involved in the design process, with differing opinions, and a wide range of suggestions and advice on what they want to achieve. This can be a very painful, time consuming process, and can lead to many unnecessary changes to a design. When we test our designs we get solid metrics showing what is or isn’t working, and know exactly what, if any, changes are required. If 90% of users can find a certain link in 4.5 seconds we know the site is working well. Conversely, if 50% of users take 10 seconds to find another link, we know we have issues.

A successful test - a good success rate, and good click time
A successful test – a good success rate, and good click time

When we present these metrics in meetings, it’s really quite a wonderful experience. People can instantly see the value of the testing, and stop arguing about what we should or shouldn’t change. We can A/B test any different concepts that come up, and go with the stronger options to produce a much nicer, more user friendly site, with a significantly better user experience than what might otherwise have been achieved.

We can also keep people in the loop and solicit useful information from them by making them test participants or sending them results that they can see updating in real time as more people take the tests. They feel involved without having to commit too much time, and without overloading us (as designers and developers) with too much information.

When all of these factors are combined, it really does help our process a lot. Hopefully it will do the same for you too.

Questions, comments or thoughts on this article, or usability in general? Be sure to let us know. Thanks for dropping by!