WebDD07: Quick and dirty Usability tests (Zhivko Dimitrov)

Review: Quick and dirty Usability tests - one week, no budget, and no usability facility at WebDD Conference 07 12:00 to 13:00

I got "Don't make me think" for Xmas and so I've become quite interested in the concept of cheap usability testing, I was looking for this talk to give me a fresh perspective on what I'd read.

Zhivko started off with a short introduction on what usability is (ease of use, user efficiency, user satisfaction) and why it's important. Increased user satisfaction leads to:

  • Increased sales
  • Decreased development costs (more testing means less fire fighting)
  • Improved brand image
  • Improved user productivity (ie. when using internal applications)

The talk then moved to comparing remote testing (screen sharing over the internet) with 'traditional' testing methods (with usability labs and all the paraphernalia). Remote testing gives you:

  • A realistic context of use - you're testing users in a 'real life' environment, where they're more comfortable
  • Better geographic representation - with traditional methods it's very expensive to test outside the area where your office is located
  • Access to professionals - if you're selling to a certain market, such as software developers, you might not be able to persuade them to travel to your lab
  • Lack of non-verbal signals - this is a disadvantage, you don't see the non-verbal cues that indicate users are getting frustrated and so have to depend on what they're telling you

Zhivko discussed some research which demonstrated that, despite being much cheaper than traditional usability testing the results gained with remote testing is at least as effective.

The final part of the talk walked through the process for running usability tests at Telerik, here's a summary:

  • Define Objectives & Target Audience
  • Set up Test Scenario
  • Recruit Test Users
  • Carry out Tests
  • Analyze Findings
  • Design Report & Brief Stakeholders

This was littered with practical advice, such as good software to use (GoToMeeting, Camtasia), what sort of compensation to offer to ensure enough respondents (a little bit more than your target group's average hourly rate), how often to use the same testers (no more than twice a year) and even how to avoid putting testers under unnecessary time pressure (don't tell them in advance how many tasks there are).

An excellent talk, just the sort of thing I was looking for with all sorts of useful tips. The only problem I had was reading the slides off the TV screen (I was unfortunately right at the back) and sometimes hearing what Zhivko was saying (probably the being at the back thing again), 4 out of 5.

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