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Conduct usability tests regularly and constantly

According to Janice Fracer, usability testing is most effective when it's a low-stress routine activity, rather than a special event that requires a lot of attention. Successful organizations conduct usability tests on a regular, fixed schedule, integrate results quickly into the product, and spend less money.

To develop a effective culture of usability you should:
- Test regularly and constantly (once a month or more)
- Train a couple of staff members to conduct the tests
- Test with five people at a time
- Perform the tests in-house
- Keep reports crisp and to the point
- Make changes immediately
- Leave recruiting to others


  • The article The Culture of Usability

Henrik Olsen - July 15, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (63) 



Calculating confidence intervals of usability test

Imagine a usability test where five out of five participants completed all tasks successfully. What are the chances that 50 or 1000 will have a 100% completion rate? By calculation confidence intervals, you will be able to tell that the chances lies somewhere between 95% and as low as 48%.

In his article, Jeff Sauro shows us how calculate confidence intervals of usability tests.


  • The article Restoring Confidence in Usability Results

Henrik Olsen - July 08, 2004

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Five users in a test is not enough

The discussion about how many users is enough for a usability test has been going on for years. Research by Jakob Nielsen and Tom Landauer showing that tests with five users will reveal an average of 85% usability problems has been seen as a proof that five is enough.

According to Laura Faulker, Nielsen and Laudauer's prediction is right. Five users will reveal 85% usability problems - on average. In a study, she found that problems found with five users range from nearly 100% down to only 55%. Thus, relying on a single set of five users, we run the risk that nearly half the problems could be missed.

Dr. Eric Schaffer concludes that "…for a routine usability test run 12 people for each segment. For an important one where the stakes are high run 30. If resources are really tight, you can drop to five-six per segment, but this is bad."


Henrik Olsen - July 01, 2004

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How to measure a website's value

How does one measure how well a website communicates the value of its offerings? Jared M. Spool from UIE has come up with a variant of usability testing called Inherent Value Testing. It goes something like this:

1. Recruit a minimum of six loyal users and six inexperienced users, who meet the target profile.
2. Start with the experienced group and ask them to give you a tour of the site and share the features they use and like the best.
3. Bring in your new users and let them work through the same scenarios as the experienced users, find out which pages they visit, what they like and what the don't like about the site
4. Compare the results and find out whether the site revealed the same benefits for the new users as those you heard form the experienced users.

Observing experienced users will tell you which offerings people appreciate, while observing new users will tell you which precious offerings that people fail to spot.


  • The article Inherent Value Testing
  • The article Conducting Inherent Value Testing

Henrik Olsen - February 29, 2004

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Listening labs vs. think aloud tests

If you heard about Mark Hurst, you probably also heard about listening labs. In his October 1, 2003 newsletter, Mark explains the how and why of the method.

Listening labs is Mark's version of the traditional think-aloud test. But instead of predefining tasks for the users to conduct, you give them tasks on-the-fly based on what they want to do on the site. In this way your test will not only tell you if users can do what you want them to, but also if the product can do what the users want to do.


  • The article Four Words to Improve User Research

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2003

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User research techniques in comic book form

Dan Willis has created a condensed overview of some of the core techniques used in information architecture. The descriptions are in a comic book form and serve as entertaining reminders of some of our development options. Willis one-pagers cover sitepath diagramming, topic mapping, free listing, card sorting, and personas.


  • IA Classics: Tools of the Trade in Comic Book Form

Henrik Olsen - April 28, 2003 - via Usability Views

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See also: Site and flow diagramming (3)  Posters (5)  Card sorting (8)  Personas (13)  The design process (14) 



A test of screen recording systems

Karl Fast has made a thorough test of three screen recording systems to decide which is most suitable in usability testing settings.

His conclusions:
"ScreenCam had the best performance of any program tested, but the lack of support for Windows 2000 and XP makes it hard to recommend."

"Camtasia offers the best blend of performance, features, and ease of use among the programs tested." "The only drawback is price, but at $150 it's still within the range of almost every budget. Highly recommended."

"My first impression of HyperCam was that for $30 I was getting what I paid for. But once I fiddled with it and found the "secret" of using Camtasia's TSCC codec, I was entirely satisfied. Unless you need the extra features of Camtasia, HyperCam will probably do the job..."


  • The article Recording Screen Activity During Usability Testing
  • Lotus ScreenCam
  • TechSmith Camtasia
  • Hyperponics HyperCam

Henrik Olsen - April 06, 2003

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See also: Tools (49) 



Usability Myths Need Reality Checks

Will Schroeder looks at some common Usability myths that have cemented themselves into our profession's foundation and started questioning how they got there.


  • UIE - Usability Myths Need Reality Checks

Tim Lucas - March 23, 2003

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See also: Research (88)  Web page design (23)  Navigation (44) 



Recruiting Test Participants for Usability Studies

Another Jakob Nielsen Alertbox is out. This time he covers the key metrics behind recruiting test participants for usability studies (i.e. what does it take to get a warm body in to take user tests, who is doing it, what are the known problems, etc.).


  • Recruiting Test Participants for Usability Studies

Nick Finck - January 20, 2003 - via InfoDesign

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Gorilla Usability

"Not everyone has time to conduct a formal usability study, or the money to invest in a full blown usability initiative, and frankly, lots of times that might not be the best option anyway. Sometimes a designer or developer needs that one-on-one, maker-to-user interface. Gorilla Usability will show you some ways to get to know your users in a real world, out-from-behind-the-glass kind of way." (D. Keith Robinson,


  • The article Gorilla Usability - Do You Know Your Users?

Henrik Olsen - January 05, 2003

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