Jan 02, 2014 Seeing Software Through a User’s Eyes
What’s the secret to great quality control for user interfaces? If I had to choose a single rule, it would be this: Expect users to do the unexpected.
Most applications are designed to lead the user through a series of steps—often by clicking on a button that literally says “Next.” But human beings don’t just follow the pathway they’re given. Not most of us, anyhow. Most users are curious; we explore; we’re liable to click on every button in sight, just to see what happens. The testing process has to reflect that reality.
At WebINTENSIVE, our internal usability testing aims to discover the unexpected ways users might interact with the software. When testing a given step in a process (say, submitting data in a form), we don’t stop when our first attempt meets with success. Instead we go back, change some data, and move forward again to see how the application reacts. This kind of experimentation often turns up problems that would otherwise have been hard to detect.
Similarly, if the user is given multiple options, the app might respond correctly when users select one option, but not when they choose another. So we have to try out all of them, seeing how the application responds and where we end up each time.
Throughout testing, our goal is to simulate how people will actually use the software—not how we hope or expect it to be used. With persistence and imagination, we catch many problems before the product ever reaches an actual user.