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What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is one of my favorite things to do as a User Experience Designer. At Pixo we usually get the opportunity to do usability testing when a project’s wireframe is near completion. By that time, we’ve spent months researching the audience and organization, analyzing our findings, and tweaking our design. Its the big reveal!

That being said, it is not something you go into with a puffed out chest, confident that you’ve totally aced it. It is a hugely humbling experience. We test our assumptions: what did we miss the mark on? That one call-to-action we were really worried about, are people struggling with it? A well-designed test can expose new issues and lead to a refined design. Usability testing puts our hard work on display, not so much challenging users, but rather our design and research based decisions.

Pixo’s Usability Testing Lab

Enter the Usability Testing Lab! On a recent Friday, the design team invited anyone at Pixo who was interested to test out current projects we are working on. Generally, we test with a project’s real world users, but we thought it would be interesting to do some additional testing in-house to receive some quick and dirty feedback. It was also a chance to share projects that we are working on with other co-workers.

Outfitted with our own tailored version of Steve Krug’s usability test script (lot’s of “you can’t do anything wrong here” and “try to think out loud”) we asked our co-workers to go through some typical tasks for the projects.

Cate performing a usability test with Pat
With my testing script in hand, Pat reacts to the site we are testing.
Maya performing a usability test with Terence
Maya notes how Terence is interacting with a site.

Outcome

Our excellent co-workers were (as to be expected) excellent testers. Despite the fact that they weren’t the target audiences, they helped us find multiple ways to improve our designs. We reconsidered navigation labels and button placement. It was so fruitful for us, that we are hoping to make it a regular event…as long as our intrepid testers are on board!

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