There's nothing worse than spending two months developing a shiny new feature in your app only to realize, your users don't like it!  The good news is, you can easily prevent this from happening.  How, you might ask?  By engaging in Usability Testing


If you are new to Usability Testing, it can be a very effective way for software developers and Website designers to determine where to spend time and resources.  The process gives you direct input on how your target users interact with your software application or your website.  

We adhere to a specific anatomy when creating a test for ourselves or for our clients .  This post discusses our basic philosophy for creating and conducting a test.  In my next post, we'll examine the best way to evaluate responses and get the most from your results.

When it comes to the anatomy of a great user test, I find it's best to use the following foundation.

1.) Create 5 tasks.

Providing specific tasks for your testers to perform is a key element to any good user test.  Tasks should be basic in nature and require only a few clicks to complete. In the case of our product, powderDesk, creating a new service ticket would be an effective task for a tester.

2.) Tell a story

Your tasks need to make sense to the tester, but you don't want to lead them or introduce bias.  The best way to explain the goal of the task is to tell a story to give them context and put them in the right mindset.  If we use powderDesk as the example again, I would tell the tester "You go to print a report for your manager and you realize your printer isn't working.  You want to report the issue to your support staff.  How would you create a ticket to report the issue?"

3.) Pin down your target audience 

You may want your target audience to include "everyone" but the best tests are focused on a specific demographic that aligns with the tasks you've created.  In the ticket creation example we used above, our target audience would be people who use help desk tools to report technology problems to their support staff.

4.) Practice

The old adage "practice makes perfect" is true even when it comes to the delivery of a usability test.  In most cases you will only have access to each tester for 15 to 20 minutes so you want to spend as much of that time gathering their feedback as you can.  Also, make sure you've worked out any technical issues prior to presenting!    

5.) Ask questions and follow up on tester comments

Learn to pick up the cues your testers provide and ask them to expand on their thoughts.  Often times they will give you a nugget of advice that is easy to over look if you're not paying close attention.  The best ideas often come from an unplanned thread of discussion.  Also, if you're showing a prototype, be sure to mention it at the beginning of the test.  

In my next post we'll examine the best way to evaluate your test results! 

If you would like to learn more about Spire's offerings or if you would just like to learn more about Usability Testing, please feel free to contact us.

Shiraz Hemani

CEO - Spire Business Services


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