In Web development as in everything else, cycles are short. Agility is the name of the game. In such a setting, you might think that usability testing is a luxury you can’t afford. Obviously, you can’t interrupt the development process for a month to make time for usability testing. While that’s true, usability testing doesn’t have to take a month. It can be as agile as any development process.
For agile usability tests, we typically go for one or more series of six participants. It’s a sufficient number to identify all major usability issues. As a bonus, six participants fit nicely in a single day or two evenings.
This methodology has many advantages. Here are the main benefits:
- It keeps the development interruption to a minimum. Tests and the subsequent analysis can be completed within a week. We should plan for another week before that for participant recruitment, but that can be done in parallel with setting the objectives, writing the tests scenarios and preparing the test prototype.
- By reducing the number of participants, we significantly reduce overall project cost.
- It enables the whole team (developers, designers, content creators, project managers, etc.) to have their ideas regularly challenged by real users. After all, users are in the best position to tell us what they like or not.
- You can test the prototype at multiple stages of development and adjust accordingly. Of course, changes cost much less at the beginning of the development process.
- You can show different versions of the prototype to different user segments. That can be especially useful in some situations, for example if the mobile version targets a different userbase than the desktop version.
Being agile shouldn’t mean you need to sacrifice usability testing to reduce development time, quite the opposite!
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