The Usability Excursion…

This was prompted by a great post from Rob Lambert.  Keep up the great work mate!

So, in the comments I pointed towards a new task in our project lifecycles… a Usability Excursion.  We’d all be pretty familiar with ‘bringing users in’ to look at usability issues, etc. but what about us heading out into the wild and observing?  True, would only be valid for certain products, but extremely valuable for those certain products!  Wouldn’t you agree?  If you’ve read Rob’s post then I think you would.  ;0)

The interesting part in all of this for me, is who you take with you?  In my comment I referenced marketing.  They would find extremely valuable information from such an excursion.  Could just be as simple as viewing how 4 out of 5 people use a certain function, then angle your marketing to suit that use (or an upgrade to that function, etc.).  I think that once again this would depend greatly on the product and who the users are.  Rob’s use of his time while travelling is great, but what other areas are there?  Would you need to be very selective in tems of the environments you plan to visit, or do you just head out and go for a broad range?  Once again, would all come back to context!

I think there is some definite value in this.

Another possible angle would be to take the product with you… get some people to use it and see what they think.  Would they buy it?  What’s their first reaction?  What’s their first complaint (if there is one)?

Are people already doing this?

What do you think your PM’s reaction to this would be?  Would they be happy to schedule the time?  Could be a hard sell, but may be worth a try.

4 thoughts on “The Usability Excursion…

  1. Hi David,

    Many thanks for the kind words and so glad you put this post out. I think it’s a great idea. There is often such a huge disconnect between different teams in the business. This is a great way of aligning views about the product and the actual market.

    It would work both ways. Working with a team like marketing would give a tester great insights in to how the market is working and react, and the marketing team, like you say, would get great insights in to how end users are using the product.

    Great stuff.


    • Thanks mate.
      I think there is merit in this for sure. Will more than likely require a bit of a culture change within the company, which is ALWAYS tough. But hell, why not give it a go.

      If there is resistance, we could maybe do it while on the bus (similar to what you do) but then go a step further and present the information to the company. They may see the value and then help with the ‘official’ excursions. Hmm, something to try I think.

    • I think A/B testing if def. a part of it mate, but I guess I’m thinking more about the design phase (if you want to call it a phase that is).

      Maybe more applicable to hardware? So a new mobile device, or a new feature for a mobile device? Not really sure. I guess it all comes back to what your product is. Internet kiosk in an airport? The payment system of that kiosk? Would there be value in setting up near one of those and observing?

      Lots of questions, but that is always a good start. ;0)

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