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Software Usability Tools, Templates, and Testing Facilities

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This chapter outlines the tools you need, the templates that are helpful, and usability testing facilities that will help your staff be most efficient and effective in creating usability and testing plans.
This chapter is from the book
  • If you throw usability staff into the organization without the right equipment, they are going to seem slow, inefficient, and impractical.

  • Get tools (e.g., lab equipment), templates (e.g., reusable questionnaires), and testing facilities. These items form an essential toolkit—the core infrastructure for routine usability work.

  • Your toolkit makes it efficient to complete the methodology. To determine the toolkit you need, review your methodology.

A well-trained staff in a room with nothing but paper can outdesign a poorly trained staff equipped with a state-of-the-art facility.

The main value of facilities, tools, and templates is time savings. Instead of creating a testing form from scratch every time a test is needed, a usability engineer can take an existing form and modify it for a client's specific test in about 20 minutes. Creating the concept for a test and the forms from scratch takes days or even weeks. So, hire good staff members, and supply them with the tools that make a difference. This chapter outlines the tools you need, the templates that are helpful, and usability testing facilities that will help your staff be most efficient and effective.

Note, however, that by the time this book is published, some of the tools and templates described here may be outdated because new developments happen all the time. For example, you may hear that usability testing labs have recently moved from being "marginally useful in special circumstances" to becoming a practical part of almost every test. Or you may learn that remote testing, which isn't used often today, is becoming far more practical and therefore much more widely used. Remote testing is usability testing performed at a distance; the participant and the facilitator will not be in the room together (in fact, may not be on the same continent), yet the facilitator can still monitor what the participant is doing and saying. Because toolsets will likely change, a skeptical attitude about these tools is useful—if a tool does not really make a difference in the design, spend your money another way.

Introduction to Your Toolkit

Your methodology points to the facilities, tools, and templates you need. For example, if the methodology specifies that a test of branding occurs at a certain point, you will want to have templates for reusable questionnaires and a standard template for the final report.

If you update your methodology, you may need to update the corresponding tools, templates, and facilities. Also, new facilities, tools, and templates might lead you to change your methodology. For example, online prototyping has become easier, so you might move it further up into the design cycle. Or, as remote testing becomes more feasible and useful, you may add it to your methodology and develop new tools and templates to fit it. However, be careful about implementing these kinds of changes because some "amazing" breakthroughs are actually not that useful.

The following sections cover the infrastructure you should consider implementing at your company. They also explore scenarios and priorities for each facility.

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