RE: Usability Testing of Web Sites

Subject: RE: Usability Testing of Web Sites
From: "Higgins, Lisa" <LHiggins -at- carrieraccess -dot- com>
To: "EXT-Hornoi-Centerwall, Theodore" <Theodore -dot- Hornoi-Centerwall -at- PSS -dot- Boeing -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 11:23:10 -0600

EXT-Hornoi-Centerwall, Theodore:
> > Marketing people are driving the
> > burgeoning trend toward usability testing of Web sites.
> >
> <material snipped>
> Would anyone care to comment on this? What usability testing
> is currently going on with Web sites, and does anyone have
> experience with marketing driving this?

Yes. I am in marketing, I develop web architectures, recommend standards and
technologies for maximum usability and compatability, write copy, and
recommend design standards.

(And lest any smartypantses get any big ideas about critiqueing my work,
don't bother looking yet.)

In my experience, it is very rare to have the opportunity to do
before-the-fact web usability testing. That would require having a
controlled group of your target audience. Which requires knowing out who
your target audience is. Most of what I've done thus far for intERnet sites
has involved a lot of speculation and deduction about who is using the site
and what they're looking for. IntRAnet sites are easier, and when I've done
that, I've worked directly with a fairly representative but still
non-scientific sample of my target users, determined what their comfort
level with the technology was (particularly several years ago, when most
people hadn't used the internet at all yet), and what they wanted from the

The most common technique now, in my experience, is similar to a spiral
development methodology (which I believe you kids are calling Extreme
Programming or something these days), in which websites are deployed
piecemeal, traffic patterns and response rates are analyzed, and then we
make guesses about what that all means.

Marketing's role is fairly significant. As a matter of fact, if you've got a
good marketing group, they'll generally drive web development from inception
to maintenance.

> Without evidence to support David Orr's assertion (articles
> in technical publications, for example, or anecdotal
> experience) it is difficult to accept.

I can't imagine why. It makes perfect sense to me that marketing should
drive development of something with such a big first impression factor.


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