Re: Practical Usabiity Testing

Subject: Re: Practical Usabiity Testing
From: "Amy Janczy" <Amy_Janczy -at- uclid -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L Posting" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>, "Vanessa Andrews" <vandrews -at- modernmuse -dot- com>, "Theresa Gray" <tagray -at- execpc -dot- com>, "Terri Gregory" <terri -dot- gregory -at- ssec -dot- wisc -dot- edu>, "Paul Prosser" <pross -at- engr -dot- wisc -dot- edu>, "Pam Hudson" <hudson -at- gcg -dot- com>, "Mark Clear" <clear -at- ims -dot- net>, "Laura Widder" <lawidder -at- execpc -dot- com>, "Barb Kauffold" <bjkauffold -at- aol -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 09:25:21 -0600

In response to my question about how to perform low-budget usability
testing, Andrew Plato replies, "Have you considered just sitting down and
actually using the product?...No book or theory or mindless tips from me
will replace hands-on experience. If
you want to do some REAL usability testing - USE THE PRODUCT!"

Well, yes, that's what I've BEEN doing...and I can't imagine documenting a
product any other way. Yet I'm fully aware that my perspective (here's
command X, write up how it works and why someone would use it) is completely
unlike the average user's (I want to do Y task, how can this software help

We have many different types of users who use only part of the product's
functionality. I would like to find out the types of tasks that are most
common to each group and organize these topics in a "meta How To topic"
linking out to specify command descriptions. Right now I think users can be
easily intimidated by too many commands organized in a way that only makes
sense after you know the product.

I'm also concerned that I don't yet have an "ear" for the terminology used
by these various groups (surveyors, CADD specialists, soil scientists,
geographers, word processors, title search specialists, etc.) to index

I just found out that I will have the opportunity on Monday to sit in on a
1-day training session for 6 new users, who represent at least 2 of the
groups mentioned above. I'm planning to have the trainer introduce me, and I
will explain that I am in the session to learn about our users to improve
the documentation. During the second half of the day, the hands-on session,
I would like to ask them to use the documentation when they get stuck. If
they need additional help, of course, the trainers will provide it, but we
want to know if the online Help is useful. Then at the end of the day (the
second half is hands-on) I want to have them fill out a short questionnaire
on what they thought about the product and the documentation.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this plan? I would then use the
information I gain from this little test to create a more structured
usability test and carry that out on-site at a few beta sites (probably only
one or two).

Thanks to everyone who has responded to this I've got lots of
great book recommendations for learning about this very interesting area of
tech comm.

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