Speaker Reena Jackson Armitage
Time 2008-12-02 19:00
Conference LUV


  • Is it easy to use?
  • Is it the most efficient use of the user’s time?
  • Will a user recommend it to friends?

Need to ensure goals aren’t too narrowly defined.

  • e.g. usability isn’t defined in terms of if grandma can use it or not. Audience can be much more broad then Grandma.

Is new version better then older version?

Usability depends on the user base. Some users might prefer using vim to edit config files, others might find this tedious.

Usability testing is not:

  • checking for bugs
  • performance issues
  • deciding on documentation

Can start testing without a finalised interface. The sooner you start the better. However it is better to test later, then not at all.

  • do these buttons make sense?
  • does this wording make sense?

usability design is separate task to usability testing

formal usability testing

  • lab style
  • very expensive
  • confronting
  • 50 participants
  • difficult to plan and organise

budget usability testing

  • anywhere
  • casual
  • few participants
  • cheap
  • 1:1 interaction with participant.
  • need to avoid helping, giving hints, or taking over.


  • need to think about specific things.
  • pick appropriate tasks that relate to this goal.
  • describe task in plain English.
  • everyday task that user is likely to use application for.

choosing test subjects

  • Ensure person knows what a computer is.
  • Need to ensure that people aren’t too familiar with program.
  • Don’t choose other developers of project.
  • Don’t choose other developers.
  • Offer incentives. Pizza. Coffee vouchers. etc.
  • Depends on target audience of application.


  • take notes?
  • Or tool like
    • RecordMyDesktop - quite cool, uses ogg format.
    • vnc2swf - works via VNC session
    • lstanbul - quite old
  • record mouse clicks and keystrokes?
    • not with RecordMyDesktop.
    • plenty of keyboard grabbers and trojans available.

setting up room

  • free of distractions. Turn off TV.
  • use standard equipment. No fancy mouse or keyboards.
  • snacks or drinks
  • comfort
  • notepaper or computer to take notes
  • print out list of tasks so they can refer to it if they forget
  • reliable computer
  • clean up desktop
  • turn off background process. downloads, chats, etc.
  • prepare beforehand for recording

the test

  • introduce yourself
  • explain the purpose of the test
  • “not testing you, testing the application”
  • “its ok if you stuff up - the application fails, not you”
  • explain how it works
  • explain how long it will take
  • ask for permission for recording - may be a legal requirement, especially if you intend to publish recording
  • need anything? Water?
  • can tell a lot by the way they speak
  • get them to speak out loud
  • get them to tell you what they are thinking off
  • encourage them to work it out on their own - make a note of the different path the take
  • if they get stuck allow them to stop
  • take notes, keep an eye on what they are doing
  • users attitude is important
  • ask for their comments

take notes

  • what did they do right?
  • what did they do wrong?
  • did they resort to help?
  • any mistakes made?
  • take note of expressions. Anger. Depression. Etc.

evaluate results