Inexpensive Usability Testing Techniques

We recently completed a round of usability tests for the next version of Visual SourceSafe. 
At Microsoft, usability tests are, as you might imagine, quite formal. Andrew
 discusses Usability in
the most recent article of his engrossing "Foundations" series. 
(Previous entries include Window
, Performance,
and the MUST READ: Globalization.)

Andrew approaches usability from the perspective
of a software development lead on a large and important project with a major
league budget. But what if you work for a small company or on a small team or on a
team with a minor league budget?  What if your team doesn't have any budget for
usability testing whatsoever?  What then?

In the past, I have participated in two small, under-funded projects where the following
'discount usability' approaches were employed to great effect. If you cannot afford
one-way glass and a usability engineer with a doctorate in some esoteric discipline,
I suggest you explore these techniques.  Oh!  And involve the
folks who write your documentation in the process!  You won't be disappointed.

Cognitive Walkthrough

My favorite approach. Usability engineer optional. Programmer/writer mandatory
:-).  A cognitive walkthrough is "...a technique for evaluating the design
of a user interface, with special attention to how well the interface supports "exploratory
learning," i.e., first-time use without formal training
." [Usability]. 
For more information about cognitive walkthrough methodology, see:

Heuristic Evaluation

Usability engineer required, usually. Programmer/writer strongly recommended :-). "A Heuristic
(Nielsen and
Molich, 1990; Nielsen 1994) is a
method for finding the usability problems in a user interface
design so that they can be attended to as part of an iterative design process. Heuristic
evaluation involves having a small set of evaluators examine the interface and judge
its compliance with recognized usability principles (the "heuristics").
" For
more information, see How
to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation

Related Blogs, Books, and Websites, an abbreviated list

Steven Clarke's Blog, Microsoft
usability engineer.
on the cheap, Part 1
, using paper prototypes.
Raymond Chen, occasional posts
on the design history of Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Usability Labs,where
you can sign up to test the next killer app
Inspection Methods
, book by Jakob Nielsen

Il presente
posting viene fornito così come é , senza garanzie, e non conferisce alcun diritto.

Comments (5)

  1. ep says:

    Is there a beta version of SourceSafe? How can one join it?

  2. We put shipped an alpha release of the new VSS with Visual Studio "Whidbey" at the Professional Developer’s Conference in Los Angeles last month. We will also ship in the Beta 1 release of Visual Studio, which is due out sometime next year. As soon as I learn when a standalone version of the new VSS will be released, I’ll certainly announce it on this blog.

Skip to main content