As we saw during the workshop, problems in workflow, interaction style, and presentation
were found. This is due to the "same as me" problem. Developers, in general, design for
themselves, assuming that everyone is the same as them. Although this a gross
overgeneralization, it does reflect a trend in design, which will likely become more of a
problem on the web because of the vast number of new designers building web sites. Our
participants were able to quickly change their interfaces when they found usability
issues pointed out by their user or guest testers. The groups did not have enough time
to truly hash out detailed solutions to every question or problem presented, but they did
recognize the user interface complexity of even these supposedly "simple" design problems.
We offered some solutions to help get some form of testing into the process. One
possibility is to hold user-centered design workshops led by an expert facilitator. The
experience an expert can bring to the design workshop is really impressive. We highly
recommend this process and we frequently get experienced facilitators to help us with
our design projects. This process, which usually lasts about 3 days, embeds user
feedback into the design process, and sets the stage for users to want to participate in
future activities, such as testing. There is nothing better than the word of mouth from a
user who participated in a workshop.
Another suggestion is to try to elevate major usability roadblocks to "severity one"
error status. In most organizations this means high priority is given to the problem. And
in the future you can set the stage for additional user testing to help avoid these types
of late, and usually expensive, fixes.
Finally, try to have some informal testing. The earlier the better. It costs almost nothing
to change a paper prototype widget from a pop-down menu to a scrolling list, but costs
significantly more to build, debug, and test this change late in the development
process. Informal testing can take many forms; walkthroughs with a paper prototype,
using six people in the hallway to test some icons, even building fake screens in Illustrator or in
HTML can be quick and effective. Usability testing is a learning process, the more you
learn now the more effective your design later.