Information & Design

Designing for humans

Drawing of a usability test session

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Usability testing is a technique for ensuring that the intended users of a system can carry out the intended tasks efficiently, effectively and satisfactorily.

When is Usability Testing appropriate?

Usability testing it is carried out pre-release so that any significant issues identified can be addressed.

Usability testing can be carried out at various stages of the design process. In the early stages, however, techniques such as walkthroughs are often more appropriate.

Usability testing is not a substitute for a human-centred design process.

Who should attend?

A usability testing session should be attended by:

It is highly recommended to also have in attendance as observers:

Observers should ideally be in a separate observation room.

How many test sessions should be conducted?

This depends on the complexity of the system, the number of intended users, and budgetary constraints. Even one test session is better than none, but 6 to 8 will tend to uncover the majority of significant issues.

Do you need to video-tape?

Video-taping is useful for presenting to project members who cannot attend a test session.

However, video-taping adds to the complexity and cost of testing, and it is certainly possible to carry out effective testing without such equipment, provided you log all activities in detail.

Preparing for a usability test

You will need the following materials:


Be sensitive to the fact that developers may be upset by what they observe or what you report.