Posts in Usability
Adding Credibility to Usability Testing
A credible Usability Testing Report backs up its opinions with concrete fact and relevant data. That’s why when you are performing Usability User sessions it’s important to make sure the test scenarios that you create elicit the most relevant data possible. Remember, once your users have performed this test, they are in a way tainted and performing a repeat session will require a new set of users.

It’s a real art to be able to write clear concise and helpful tests that will provide you with such data. It involves asking the right questions in the right order, and being able to frame those questions in such a way that ensures more than just a yes/no answer.

Fortunately Dennis J Gertz has 8 tips to designing good tests that will help you on your way.

I like the fact that he recommends testing the tests first before starting Usability sessions. That way you can refine and remove any part of the tests that are either too long or don’t return any useful data.  As he writes “It's no fun to find out, at a late stage in your project, that you've gathered no useful information”
UsabilityMichael Kelly
Test your Twitter
I'm seeing more and more testers using twitter these days, so I thought a tip on designing and testing your tweets might be helpful.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox has a great lesson on designing your twitter post. He uses an iterative design process to make sure you express yourself clearly and succinctly.

Essentially, you need to:

  • Grab the user's attention. In his example he uses capitals to identify key words in the tweet

  • Front-load the tweet with attractive keywords

  • Be specific and try and keep your tweet to 130 characters so that others can re-tweet

  • Save space by abbreviating over full sentences

  • Don't make multiple points in your tweet

  • Think about when you post your tweet

It's much better put by the man himself. You can find his post here:

I like the way he partially shortens the URL link to help emphasize the point of the tweet.

And you thought twitter was easy!
Don't make me think
In the interview linked below, usability expert Tim Altom provides a heuristic for usability testing. When testing he invokes the simple philosophy he picked up from Steve Krug's bestselling book on usability, Don't Make Me Think.

"If anything in the interface will make a user pause and have to think, it should be flagged for possible change," Tim said. "Contrary to popular belief, nobody really wants to think while working with a tool. Thinking is hard work in itself, and should reserved for the job, not for the tools."

More in this interview/article on usability testing.
Cognitive walkthroughs
Cognitive walkthroughs are an inspection technique that can be done using a strong description of the end user and a few use-case style task scenarios. In the article linked below, usability expert Tim Altom provides the following advice for performing a cognitive walkthrough: "The interface is inspected slowly and deliberately. During inspection, the tester answers four questions at each action."

Those questions include:

  • Will the users try to achieve the right effect?

  • Will the user notice that the correct action is available?

  • Will the user associate the correct action with the effect to be achieved?

  • If the correct action is performed, will the user see that progress is being made toward solution of the task?

More in this interview/article on usability testing.
UsabilityMichael Kelly
Testing using different displays
I do a lot of web testing, so it's easy for me to remember to test in multiple browsers. I know each browser renders content in it's own way. I also often remember to test using different screen sizes, because I know sometimes content gets truncated or smashed together on lower resolutions. However, sometimes you might even want to try testing with different displays. Sometimes you'll notice contrast differences between brands or types (CRT, LCD) of monitors, or even devices (think mobile applications). Depending on what you're testing, this distinction might be important. For example, if your developing the UI for an ATM system, knowing how you render on CRT machines vs. LCD machines might really be important.
UsabilityMichael Kelly