Friday, October 23, 2009

Usability Testing vs. Expert Reviews

An article at UX Matters titled "Usability Testing Versus Expert Reviews" takes a reader question and tosses it to a series of experts to answer:

Under what circumstances is it more appropriate to do usability testing versus an expert review? What are the benefits and weaknesses of each method that make one or the other more appropriate in different situations?

The experts ultimately all came up with similar answers — do both. Start with the expert review to take care of low-hanging fruit and then bring users in for the testing phase to catch the issues that trip them up. Some quotes:

Expert reviews are especially useful for finding violations of usability standards and best practices. These are often obvious problems that may or may not cause problems during usability testing.
Before doing usability testing, it is helpful to do at least an informal expert review to determine what to focus on during testing.
I recommend always doing both. Expert reviews that are performed by specialists, using standards and heuristics, reveal easy-to-catch usability problems in a very cost-efficient way.
While usability testing is more powerful than expert review, both methods in combination are great, because you first want to discover the low-hanging fruit and get them out of the way.
We need to remember that expert review is a user-free method. Regardless of the evaluators' skill and experience, they remain surrogate users—expert evaluators who emulate users—and not typical users. The results of expert review are not actual, primary user data and should lead to—not replace—user research.

There aren't any real surprises here, but it's interesting to see the different approaches suggested by each expert.

2 comments:

  1. Odd that you write about Usability Testing the same day I write about TDD. But and interesting article none the less.

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  2. this reminds me of the FIOS commerical where the cable guy says "why are we listening to customers? seems dumb."

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