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25 Mar

Five Software Usability Testing Tips

After enrolling in any introductory usability course, you will almost immediately see its definition, which in the nutshell is something like the following:

"Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object."(Wikipedia)

The most common area where usability is put to the test is in software engineering. In other words, how easily can a user interface with a particular application to find what they want and achieve their desired outcome. Jakob Nilsen, widely considered the grandfather of modern usability, identified five quality components that make up the usability of an application. The following is a list of five usability testing tips that anyone can implement to properly meet the criteria for each quality component.

  1. Learnability – A good way to measure learnability in software applications is to verify the exact number of clicks it takes a user to accomplish a very basic task. Chances are that anything more than three or four clicks and you''re going to need a redesign.
  2. Efficiency – By implementing good navigation and placing key interactive icons where users expect to see them, you will allow your users to accomplish a task very quickly and efficiently. Surprises are for birthday parties, not usable websites.
  3. Memorability – Ask your users to come back a week or so after their initial testing to see if they still remember how to perform the same task. Make notes about if your users took more or less time to accomplish their goal.
  4. Error Prevention – Notice how many mistakes your users make. Your website should ultimately be error free for most users. By making your interface easily understood and navigable, you should accomplish this quite easily.
  5. Satisfaction – Create a website that is aesthetically pleasing, as well as highly functioning. Stay away from such distractions as large, flashy, and overly colorful objects, popups, and definitely no loud noises. Use a pleasant blend of moderate colors and appropriate fonts to make your website visually pleasing, but the functioning content should always be at the forefront of your design.

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