Usability Testing, do You Feel Lucky?

If it’s Tuesday, then it’s usability testing.

If, then statements; there’s little wonder why they came into being. As a broad, general statement, individuals tend to seek resolving the unknown in their lives. Individuals have different motivations powering this behavior. An accountant could use a software program to help ensure the bottom line amount is error free in its computation. A psychologist could seek to resolve the unknown to help in better understanding why certain behavior is chosen and for what expected result. Accountants are frequently stereo typed as black and white, while a common perception of psychology professionals is they are nothing but shades of gray, and you would be hard pressed to get a direct answer from them.

“Individual perceptions do not reality make” is what I can hear Yoda saying at this point. Stereo types, are, how we shall say this, nothing more than stereo types themselves.

I whole strongly support, intelligent, well researched, unbiased, “non-leading-the-witness-Judge-Ito” usability testing. Since I have already confessed that I hear voices in my head (Yoda) I feel moderately confident in hearing one of my old psychology professors discussing a famous phrase that Mark Twain popularized “Lies, damned lies and statistics”.

So, to put everything together, if relates to perceptions, then relates to statistics. Meaning if all of the individualized perceptions of users are tested and analyzed, statistically speaking we can come up with lies about how individuals perceive stuff. Seriously, I’m being partly serious.

Usability testing, in part is about discovering perceptions outside of ourselves. Usability testing, in part is about inviting a two year old to dinner to hear 243 no’s to anything you suggest. Usability testing, could be, in part, asking your beloved to marry you, hoping for a yes, and dreading a no.

Or usability testing could be likened to people like Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Groucho Marx or Julia Childs who share in common a willingness to throw the spaghetti against the wall and see it sticks. Because bringing something to market that users can’t use and therefore don’t want, is probably a perception that every company hopes, strike that, wants to avoid.

Maybe Hollywood has a comment on testing perceptions. Do you remember, “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? But to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I have kind of lost track myself…You’ve got to ask yourself one question, do I feel lucky.”

Ah, thank you Clint Eastwood for putting usability testing in a light where most individuals can see at least some value. When to engage in usability testing? Might best be answered with another question, “when do you want to find out if you are going the wrong way? Which hole is easier to climb out of, one that is 12 inches deep or one that is 12 feet deep? When do you want to discover if the dam might have a leak, after 12 ounces is found on the floor or 12,000 gallons is found on the floor?

Usability testing, it just depends on when you want to find some things out. And sometimes, just sometimes, the things, are really, really important.

Editors note, as always, I write to explore ideas and process applying concepts to situations. Reading what I write could involve tremendous resources of cognitive multitasking and require a desire to embrace ambiguity and ambivalence.

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