Usability testing is a critical part of user-centered design. While the main types of usability testing are formative and summative, most work within the framework of user-centered design is formative usability testing.
It is conducted during design and is used to provide early and iterative feedback on the usability of an evolving user interface design. We’ve seen it used effectively with face-to-face testing and with remote testing in many domains including government websites, e-commerce websites, healthcare IT, call centers, intranets, and cloud and client server applications.
Here are some typical testing environments:
- laboratory environments with one-way mirrors, slaved terminals, and TechSmith’s Morae recording software to evaluate a live website and benchmark it’s performance
- conference room with paper prototypes getting feedback on an early design for an electronic medical records system
- remote usability testing of a mature PC application over an Internet connection to identify areas of improvement
From these examples, three dimensions of testing emerge and are important to understand:
- Location: Remote vs. face-to-face
- Stage: Early vs. late in development stages
- Purpose: Formative vs. summative
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