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How Do You Know?

Many usability professionals believe that you cannot know whether an interaction is good unless you test it. That's why they are constantly asking, “How do you know?” But I have noticed something very curious. When they ask, they are not playing devil's advocate. They are asking for the simple reason that they really don't know good design when they see it.

At least four large companies that I work with have a long history with usability professionals. The companies decided to invest in usability. They hired professionals who built their labs, performed their studies, identified likely problem areas, and made a series of guesses about how to improve things. The programmers diligently made changes to their programs, and not much happened, except that the programmers had worked a lot harder. After a few cycles of this, the programmers simply gave up, and so did most of the managers. They could see that it was very expensive and time consuming, yet it wasn't solving the fundamental problem.


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