The Importance of Usability Testing


How many times have you tried to download an application or use a newer version of the same software only to give up in frustration when you can’t navigate your way through to what you need? The adoption of technology is predicated on three basic tenants, it must be easy to use, useful and make you look good – simple really. If your application is not user friendly, chances are people will not come back, nor recommend it to their network, and your effort will be wasted.

It is often said that software developers must not write the user manuals because they don’t understand the problems that a user experiences. This is where usability testing comes in. It is an important step in the development of any application that we check to see whether the application is designed to fit the users’ needs.

Application usability is achieved by first understanding the users’ needs, their actual goals, challenges and limitations they face, or the unique or unexpected ways in which they use the application. These needs are determined by collecting data on representative users’ interactions with the application. This data must be objective, based on actual performance, as well as subjective, based on the users’ impressions and preferences. It must include measurements such as task time, errors, learning rate, satisfaction, cognitive load, level of frustration etc.

Once the users’ needs and challenges have been clearly defined, then this information should be incorporated into a specification for the developers to build the application.

An important part of usability is the testing of the system after it has been built. It is often a good idea to collect the data of a fictitious user who would be using the application and to run through the entire process from start to finish, as though you were the user. This illuminates any gaps in logic that may have crept into the application.

Once the user testing has been tested on a fictitious character, then real users need to test the application and criticise it in a controlled environment. Only when you get the thumbs up from real users should you unleash your application on the market.

It is important to remember that your application remains in permanent beta with constant and never ending improvements and as such, usability testing is a constant step in your application development.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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2 Comments

Filed under Digital Communities, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

2 responses to “The Importance of Usability Testing

  1. Though I would’ve loved it much more if you added a relevant video or at least pictures to back up the explanation, I still thought that your write-up quite helpful. It’s usually hard to make a complicated matter seem very easy. I enjoy your weblog and will sign up to your feed so I will not miss anything. Fantastic content

  2. Lucas Montoya

    By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic. Sure glad that I navigated to your page by accident. I’ll be subscribing to your feed so that I can get the latest updates. Appreciate all the information here

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