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The User Is Always Right: Usability Testing

I’m a third of the way through Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar’s insightful guide to to creating personas, The User is Always Right. As part of that process the authors provide concrete examples and rules for conducting user research for the initial phase of design for web.

I’m finding that so far, along with some great nuggets of insight, a good portion of Mulder and Yaar’s process refreshingly mirror our own here.

“…Traditional usability testing often isn’t as helpful for creating personas…When you give specific tasks to users, the test becomes about the user goals you have chosen instead of the users’ unique goals.”

One example of that is the caution the authors’ express when using usability tests as a means of qualitative research for persona development. In trying to understand users’ goals to ultimately craft the best experience, traditional usability testing tells us successes or failures of a given task at hand. Rather than uncovering what we don’t know, this type of research usually tests what we suppose is right or wrong with what exists versus informing what needs to exist.

That being said, user testing is effective when the conditions are right. Field, ethnographic and quantitative research are other means of research that provide great insights in our experience and that Mulder and Yaar speak to at length in the book.

If you’re interested, the pitfalls of user testing is something T+L have always been cautious of and something David has spoken about in detail more recently.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book and providing more feedback as to how it compares and contrasts to our process here.

Derek Vaz More posts by Derek Vaz