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Getting Started With Usability Testing

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peter van dijck

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User since: 22 Oct 1999

Articles written: 23

The best way to get started in usability is getting your hands dirty. Yes, people, that means testing.

Now, many web designers have never actually seen any users using their sites. If you're one of them, prepare for a bit of a shock. You'll probably find people can't use them, especially if there's functionality involved (forms, etc.). So go ahead, do some testing.

How to do user testing:

There are a few important rules and steps to follow when doing user testing:

  1. Get a person who fits the user profile for the site. Don't get someone who has worked on it, don't get a geek. Get a real person (off the streets if you have to). Try to get someone that's as close as possible to the intended users of the site.
  2. Sit them down in front of a computer, give them the URL, and tell them a small scenario, like: "I'm testing this CV site, imagine you're a person looking for a job and try to enter your CV." Also tell them to think aloud, especially when they're wondering about something.
  3. Then: shut up. Don't speak. Do not utter a word!
  4. Sounds easy, but see if you actually can shut up.
  5. Watch them use the site. If they ask you something, tell them you're not there. Then shut up again.
  6. Start noting all the things you're gonna have to change.
  7. Afterwards ask them what they thought.

Easy, isn't it? You'll be surprised at the results, and what's even cooler, you can now put "usability testing" on your CV.

Finally, here are some links. I'm not giving all of them, just the top sites you just must visit, if you haven't already. Jakob Nielsen's Website

The grandfather of usability, Jacob Nielsen has been writing his monthly AlertBox for years. An obligatory read.

Daily links by John Rhodes that have to do with usability. Read this and you'll be all up to date.

User Interface Engineering

These guys have some fantastic articles. The research is all well done and well explained, you'll be sure to learn some interesting things here.

Usable Web

Hundreds of links. When doing research, this is the place to go.

Peter Van Dijck is an Information Architect with an interest in localization, accessibility, content management systems and metadata.
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