I recently recorded a video for Silverlight TV on Quick and Dirty Ux Testing. My goal was to give three techniques that anyone can use to easily, quickly and cheaply test their products.


Silverlight TV Episode

These techniques can be used for any software product, large or small, Mac or PC, Web or Desktop. I used a mobile phone example because it was a small app to demonstrate the points. However, we do all of these techniques to evaluate Visual Studio and other tools, so don't limit yourself.

In the video I discuss three techniques. Here are the tips:

Cognitive Walkthroughs

Before you begin, you need to know who you are designing for. Put yourself in that user's shoes to do the evaluation.

Tell a credible story for these two questions:
  1. Will the user know what to do at this step?
  2. If the user does the right thing, will they know that they did the right thing, and are making progress towards their goal?
Group Ground Rules
  • No designing
  • No defending a design
  • No debating cognitive theory

Heuristic Evaluations

Before you begin, you need to know who you are designing for. Put yourself in that user's shoes to do the evaluation.

  1. Put together UI to evaluate
  2. Make list of applicable heuristics
  3. Put yourself in user’s shoes
  4. Evaluate each piece of UI
  5. Record issues

Standard Heuristics

  • Consistency - Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.
  • Visual Design  - All aspects of the product should exhibit excellent visual quality and attention to detail
  • Communication - The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
  • Ease and Efficiency - The system should be efficient to use  and physically easy to interact with.
  • Error Prevention - Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

TIP: Good to do with a group or representative user

Valuable Usability Studies

For recruiting participants in your usability assessment: If your app is highly contextual and domain specific, you will need to find people who are in your target audience. If you have a more general app, or general gestures and tasks in your apps, most anyone should do*. 

1. Make a list of end user goals
2. Recruit 6 people
TIP: 6 people will find 80% of issues
TIP: Remember basic human behavior is constant*
3. Have them try to complete the goals
  TIP: Don’t help!
4. Have them think out loud as they try to complete the goals
5. Record issues
6. Make changes to the app

*Put someone in a dark room with a single, small, stationary light source. That person will report that the light source is moving around. It doesn't matter who they are. This is from basic psychology and it's also why lights on the top of towers blink and lighthouses turn around and around.

Relevant links:

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