Impact Technical Publications Usability Testing
Usability Testing on a Shoestring Budget

This four-page article explains how to get the benefits of usability testing by conducting economical "do-it-yourself" tests.

Download the free Usability Testing on a Shoestring Budget (128 K) article as a PDF file.



Making Online Information Usable

Although this article was written in 1996, most of the information is extremely helpful today. Assuming that a help system is usable without conducting usability tests is a great way to increase the cost of technical support!

Usability testing is the best way to make sure that your products and services - and the knowledge required to use them (installation instructions, quick start guides, user guides, help systems, and so on) - meet your customers' needs.

Professionals

If your budget permits, hire usability testing professionals. They will recruit appropriate test subjects, design and conduct valid tests, report objective results, and recommend both immediate and long-term improvements to the product and the knowledge required to use it. If possible, attend the usability testing sessions as an observer. You will learn much more by watching test subjects as they attempt to perform tasks than you will learn by reading test reports.

Do It Yourself

If your budget does not permit you to hire professionals, donít give up. Conducting usability tests yourself is much better than not testing at all.

Usability Problems

Installation instructions, quick start guides, user guides, help systems, and so on must provide users with the knowledge they need to set up and use technical products and services. But capturing and communicating the knowledge is not be enough. We must make sure users can find the knowledge when they need it.

Mistakes are easy to make!

For examples, see The Psychics' Gallery of Usability Problems.

Costly and Embarrassing Mistakes

Even the most basic usability testing can prevent the rampant costs and professional embarrassment associated with really bad installation instructions, quick start guides, user guides, and help systems.

For examples - and a couple of chuckles - see The Rogues' Gallery of Bad Technical Publications.