Usability Testing a must?
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Usability testing can play a big role in providing applications/products that a user can work on without requiring any manuals (documentation) or training. It can help to identify inconsistencies within the system, measure the ease of learning provided by a system, measure response time when loading data on systems, study user patterns, and even locate bugs that may have been missed on previous testing done on system. All these can be achieved through observing users work on the product and identifying mistakes they make while working on the product or through documenting areas where users require assistance.
Usability testing is a good practice, but for a company, it may mean numerous changes on the product and hence, more time added in the hands of developers (not to mention cost to company). These changes on how a product works may mean rethinking the system design and maybe database changes, posing fear to IT managers in terms of budget and scope of the project. One may say, if you involve users throughout the development process, then these changes can be prevented from occuring, but it might be impossible to involve all your users on the development process (thus leaving room for usability issues being raised when other/new users come in touch with the product). Usability testing is a huge concern for projects, but is often neglected... Until we find a way to make it a 'must do' for products, it will always be an issue that is ignored by development teams.
For more on usability testing, you might want to read this book: A Practical Guide to Usability Testing, by Joseph S Dumas, Janice C. Redish
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