Userfocus Usability Newsletter, October 2015

Welcome to the October edition of the Userfocus usability and user experience newsletter!

Message from the Editor

At first sight, the Volkswagen scandal may not appear to have much relevance to user experience. Volkswagen installed software in its cars that ‘knew’ when the car was being tested and at that point pretended, like Dr Jekyll, it was a good citizen, reducing its nitrogen oxide pollutants. Under real world conditions, it turned into Mr Hyde, emitting pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.

The way the software knew that the car was under test was because emissions tests happen under controlled laboratory conditions. There is an equivalent in the design world; it’s called “user acceptance testing” or UAT. UAT is a misnomer, because users aren’t really part of the test at all: instead, the tester simply checks that the design works according to the specification, even if that means they need to hold down four keys at once while balancing the mouse on their nose.

These kind of laboratory tests tell us nothing about whether the design can be used in the real world by real users in real contexts. That’s one of the reasons why our discipline is so important: it’s much harder to ‘game’ a usability test or a field visit than a UAT. What we learn from this scandal is that there is no replacement for real world testing.

This month's article is on testing for a user need. I hope you find it useful.

David Travis

Testing for a user need

One of the most important questions faced by start-ups and established companies alike isn't, "Is my system usable?" or "Is this a great user experience?", but "Do people actually need this thing?" This article presents a structured interview technique for checking if you have identified a user need. Read the article in full: Testing for a user need.

From our archives: Usability testing with hard-to-find participants

For most products, it's easy to track down participants for a usability test. But there are some products where end-users are difficult to find and recruit. For these products, it's better to use surrogate users as a proxy for genuine users than not to usability test at all, but you must manage the risks appropriately. Read the article in full: Usability testing with hard-to-find participants.

What we’re reading

Some interesting usability-related articles that got our attention over the last month:

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User Experience quotation of the month

“You can observe a lot just by watching.” — Yogi Berra.

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