The BEST Usability Testing

The BEST way to do usability testing

My friend Matt knows the best way to add usability testing to application development – do usability testing early (and often) – unfortunately he (and many other application development companies) can’t always do it.

Matt’s a business development guy for a software development company – not only is he good at application business development, he’s also a really nice guy.

Matt is up in Chicago right now freezing his tail off, demonstrating a new application to his customers and getting feedback from them.  Unfortunately, Matt couldn’t add usability early in this project because budgets, timelines and deliverables were already contracted before he met me and thought about adding usability to this project.  Next time Matt!

Anyway, Matt wanted to include usability testing as part of the development process, knowing this would make for a more usable application and provide his clients with a better application.  The problem however is the application development process for his application is almost complete.  All the design and usability decisions have already been made, coding is done, and it’s a bit too late to make significant usability changes now.

The best usability means starting usability testing early

Matt and other smart developers know that adding usability testing very early, like at the beginning of the development process is the best way to go.

There are 2 major advantages to adding usability early:

  1. Lowest Cost – Adding usability at the beginning of application development is the lowest cost way of performing usability testing and optimization.  At the early conceptual stage, card sorts, wireframe tests, reverse card sorts and user research can be conducted easily, with minimal tools (like paper and pencil even) but with maximum data.

  2. Obtaining user feedback about information architecture, labeling, navigation and layout is super easy at the stage.  And it’s amazingly low cost, the only real costs involved are time spent considering alternatives, time spent asking users usability questions, and time spent re-drawing an information architecture, wireframes or cards for a card sort.

  3. Highest Influence – Conducting usability testing early in the design stage enables developers to have access to information that can dramatically influence the design of the application.  User feedback early in development will uncover any potential major issues with information architecture, because users can provide feedback about their mental map of how a process should flow.

  4. Being able to make major changes to an information architecture to better suit your end-user needs at this stage is as easy as re-drawing an information architecture document, but as significant as saving an application from major usability issues and massive wasted coding time near the end of the project.  It also saves the large amount of time and resources necessary to make changes to the application after it has gone live – to “fix” usability problems post-launch.  It’s far more efficient to catch usability issues prior to coding, rather than after coding.

    Obtaining direct user feedback as the software development life cycle advances means making continual small but significant optimizations to the application.

    Consider Matt on his airplane flight from Boston to Chicago – it’s far easier for his plane to make small course corrections as it travels on its path, vs one major course correction near the end of its journey.  Likewise, it’s far easier, but more significant, to make small application changes based on end-user feedback from usability testing throughout development process, vs at the end.

This chart that I had used in my Overview of Usability presentation I think summarizes pretty well why starting early with usability makes the biggest impact.

Usability and its impact on design

Usability and its impact on design

What am I saying here?

Your best usability impact on an application comes early in the process, while your ability to make changes is great, and the cost to make those changes is minimal.

Don’t wait for your application to be coded before you think about adding some usability testing.  Your best method of adding usability testing is at the very start of the project.

For my buddy Matt and his Chicago clients I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.  For you and your applications you now know the best way to add usability to your development process.

For more information about the best way of adding usability testing to your application development process just contact me.  I’m a nice guy, and I really know my usability stuff, just ask Matt!

This entry was posted in Design, Methodology, Testing, User Centered Design and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The BEST Usability Testing

  1. Matt Haney says:

    That Matt guy sounds like a Saint!

    I do agree that Craig knows his stuff. No one wants to invest a ton of money into “shelfware.” Usability is one of the most important aspects of application design and it is quite frequently skimmed over or ignored entirely.

    Give Craig a call – you won’t regret it.

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