angry-computer Our favorite articles about usability testing

Anyone can do usability testing. Read these great resources if you want to learn how to get started with your first usability test.

You can perform a usability test on any kind of information product. An information product can include a website, a set of instructions, a computer application, a physical item, a user manual, and wayfinding signs. Pretty much anything that a real person can interact with is a valid candidate for a usability test.

This year, we shared several great articles about usability testing. Here are seven of our favorite essays and interviews:

1. Quick start guide to usability testing

Technical communicators can examine usability through a number of different methods, such as a formal usability test, paper prototype testing, animated prototype testing, heuristic evaluations, questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups. Each method has pros and cons depending on the product being tested, its state of development, or the environment in which it will be evaluated. Let's examine the steps for a popular usability test method: the formal usability test.

2. How to write usability testing personas

The first step to performing any usability test is to understand the users. If you don't know who uses the system, and why and how they need to access the system, then it's difficult to create a usability test that accurately represents what real people will do on the website. It's important to get this step right.

Personas help us understand who uses the system, and why they use it. Use these quick tips to write your first personas.

3. Writing great user stories

When designing a usability test, the first step is to understand the users. Without that solid foundation, you can't create a usability test that accurately reflects how real people use the website to do real work.

Usability test design requires knowing who uses the website, what they do on the website, and how they access the website. Writing usability testing personas defines "who uses the website." To understand the "what" and "how," we need to write user stories. These are also called use scenarios.

4. The art of the scenario task

Scenario tasks are the heart of a usability test. They are what you provide to the tester to actually perform the usability test. As such, scenario tasks need to represent what real people do with the system to do real work.

Writing scenario tasks is often more "art" than "science." Scenario tasks need to be focused and directed, but not prescriptive. Follow these best practices for writing your next scenario tasks.

5. How many usability testers

When performing a usability test, you may think "more testers means better results." But that's not always the case. For most usability tests, the answer is "about five." Here's why.

6. Analyzing usability tests with heat maps

After you've performed a usability test of an information product, you need to communicate what worked well and what were the challenges. The client needs to understand the areas that need the most focus so they can put their attention to fixing those rough spots for the next iteration of the product. Here's a visual way to share results.

7. Learning about usability

Thanks to Nick Rosencrans for this interview about usability testing. Good usability means real people can do real tasks in a reasonable amount of time. This can include a variety of methods including a formal usability test, A-B testing, heuristic review, or survey of users. We asked Nick Rosencrans to tell us about usability testing, how to do usability testing, and how to get started in the field.