Less than a decade ago it was fairly common for usability testing to be formally conducted in closed-door sound proof rooms with a facilitator driving the discussions with potential end users and product teams watching the process from outside the room to interpret results first hand. There used to be most valuable player (MVP) discussions with feedback coming in from a select set of end users especially for large enterprise software. While all of these continue to happen today, the whole process and timing of usability testing has significantly changed. The change is being driven by several factors including technology evolutions such as social, mobile and cloud computing, the way end users interpret and use products, their willingness to participate early on in product design and engineering, the kind of products that are being developed, the start-up mentality and nimbleness quotient even amongst large organizations and overall how product organizations, both big and small are keen in upholding end user wants to retain and enhance market-share.
Usability engineering including usability testing have become core to the product engineering work today as opposed to being an add-on attribute. Organizations are able to connect with end users at short notice initiating campaigns through social media and get voluminous feedback that they are able to channelize into the engineering processes. The challenge in-fact today is having more than required feedback that needs to be carefully sifted through to arrive at meaningful outcomes and this is certainly being seen as a good challenge to have.
As easy as this may seem, there is a certain processes to definitely adopt in determining what to get feedback on as part of usability testing (including what attributes to get feedback on – functional, performance, security etc.), when to get feedback, who are the users and how to keep this database ongoing and relevant, how to reach out to end users, how to take their feedback in and process the information, all of which are important calls to make. To some extent this process is around how to engage with a crowd, be it internal or external to the organization where the users are the crowd. Within usability as well there is both the user experience as well as accessibility umbrellas to ensure the product under development is inclusive of one and all. As an organization we have been providing usability testing services in the spaces of compatibility, crowd sourced testing including real end user testing and a very detailed accessibility testing strategy. You can visit our services pages to know more about any of these including our book on crowd-sourced testing which is the first of its kind, available for global purchase from CRC Press.
In all, user centric product design has taken the main stage and it is exciting to see how product organizations are recognizing it and how end users are leveraging their role responsibly in building globally relevant and exciting products.