Designers & usability testing

Quote from Jakob Nielsen’s September 10, 2012 Alertbox, “Traveling Usability Lab.”

“The key elements in user testing are the facilitator’s skill in drawing out user behavior without biasing the user, and the facilitator’s analytical skills in determining valid and useful design conclusions from observations of this user behavior.”

Both statements are true. In my experience, facilitators tend to be better at drawing out user behavior without biasing the user than at determining valid and useful design conclusions. That makes sense — facilitators are rarely designers and often know less about the why and how of the design than designers.

I think designer participation in tests of their designs is another key element. Too many designers wait for the usability report instead of observing test sessions. Designer participation:

  • Adds another touch point for the designer with users, which makes for a better design
  • Lets the designer communicate information to the testers about why design decisions were made, which helps the testers make informed design conclusions and recommendations
  • Allows designer recommendations for changes in the design to be included in the test deliverables