SPA Conference session: Pragmatic DIY Usability Testing as Part of an Agile Toolkit

One-line description:Gain practical experience of how simple DIY usability testing can help in improving the quality of your web application in an ‘Agile’ Environment.
Session format: Workshop (150 minutes) [read about the different session types]
Abstract:Quite often, web applications are developed and evolved by teams that have little or no contact with the end users their product is aimed at. As a result the process of trying to improve the application can be based on hearsay, speculation or on the basis of feedback from a small vocal minority of users.

The session leader was inspired by reading Steve Krug's excellent books on usability. As well experiencing first-hand the benefits of usability testing over a number of years - including the inclusion of this technique as part of a thriving agile process.

Carrying out usability testing regularly on your web applications with “real people” involves observation of their actual behaviour while they trying to use them. This can be carried out with minimal cost and in a fairly lo-fi way.

This session seeks to demonstrate how it is quite easy to do and can provide valuable and often unexpected insights into how your web application can be improved.

A short presentation will explain how we have used DIY usability testing as part of our agile process. Then, as groups, you will carry out the process (in a smaller form) on your own web application. The aim is to extract a short-list of improvements that could be carried out over the course of your next iteration or short period of work.

We will discuss the pros and cons of this approach, as well as how it could be implemented in your organisation.
Audience background:This is suitable for anyone involved in the development process for applications or websites that are used by “real people” - developers, project managers, coaches, testers, stakeholders, team leaders etc.

You will need to nominate an application (probably your own) to use a “guinea pig” and be tested by users.

You will need a laptop (or one to share) that has access to your web application of choice.
Benefits of participating:Gain some real practical insight into how this type of testing can improve the experience end users have of your web applications.
Materials provided:Use of screen-sharing software for recording/sharing session.
Process:Presentation of process and how it was used in our organisation.
Group exercise to carry out the process on one of your web applications.
Retrospective to generate a shortlist of potential issues that can be addressed quickly.
Detailed timetable:00:00 - 00:10 Introduction
00:10 - 00:30 Demo/presentation of how the process works and has been used in practise
00:30 - 00:40 Organise groups, explain usability testing exercise
00:40 - 00:50 Break
00:50 - 01:50 Groups plan and carry out testing sessions - including capturing observations
01:50 - 02:00 Break
02:00 - 02:15 Groups debrief and generate prioritised list of issues discovered during testing
02:15 - 02:30 Show & Tell of results, discussion of experiences and concluding remarks
Outputs:Lists of prioritised issues to be addressed on chosen web applications.
History:Not previously presented
1. John Armstrong-Prior
Esendex Ltd.
2. Andrew Seward