Archive for August, 2010
The classic usability complaint is that projects just tack a usability test on at the end of development when it is too late to make any changes. Which leaves the usability consultant in the uneviable position of having to tell the project team that their product doesn’t work, when they can’t do anything about it. It can feel like a waste of time and money.
In reality these sessions are rarely entirely useless and I’d prefer to run them rather than having nothing at all. A lot of feedback is often about content which can usually be changed at the last minute. You can also capture general customer research insights that can feed into the next project.
A couple of projects I’ve got involved with recently have involved late stage usability testing . We need to tackle this but we’ve got some bigger challenges than usual in bringing in a better approach to usability testing.
1. The organisation can’t afford rounds of testing
This is hardly unique to us and I fully expected this when I took the job. The answer usually involves the word “guerrilla” at some point.
2. We have some challenges in doing guerrilla testing
Our target audience (blind and partially sighted people) is a small section of the population and can’t easily be found by popping into libraries and coffee shops. Everybody else really isn’t representative and would give completely different results. Although admittedly our target audience can often be found in our own offices, or rather in the public resource centre downstairs. But you can’t just get them to test on your laptop as you need to have the access tech that they are used to using. We might need to try and find folks who are both willing to test and also use the access tech we have available. Not insurmountable problems, but will take a bit of planning.
3. Can’t easily do paper-based testing or flat onscreen mock-ups.
I’ve mentioned this particular challenge before. We can survey and interview quite easily. We can test existing or competitor systems. But when it comes to trying out how well new designs are working, our options get a lot fewer. Whilst it would be interesting to experiment with tactile mock-ups, the admin overheads and learning curve probably aren’t justified. Really we should just concentrate on working prototypes, rather than getting carried away with how cool an IA presentation idea “tactile wireframes” is.
A while back I read The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
Back then I was in daily contact with someone who could have been the inspiration for Sutton’s book. Some of you will have had your ears bent about that delightful situation.
I’m far luckier in my working environment these days. My current boss and colleagues are all pretty much universally supportive, considerate and rational.
Occasionally I still encounter less pleasant folks but they are mostly at arms length which makes them far easier to deal with. My most recent encounter sent me back to my book shelves to read Sutton’s book.
The book makes a distinction between people who demean others and people who are constructively argumentative and challenging. Sutton describes two tests for spotting the former:
- Test One: Does the ‘target’ feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energised, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him or herself?
- Test Two: Is the venom aimed at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful?
Sutton argues that the bullies cause obvious damage to their immediate targets but they also damage bystanders, themselves and the organisation.
There’s a good section in the book called “Teach People How to Fight”.
I’ve been struck that through bullying these individuals can control what people do but they can’t control what people keep from them. No-one is going to voluntarily help them out. People will let them shoot themselves in the foot.