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Chapter Eight. Usability Testing > Interpreting Test Results

Interpreting Test Results

Many parts of the usability test require the tester to fathom what's going on in test subjects' heads when they're not saying anything—and that can be a tricky business. I've seen people who struggled with an application and, when presented with three choices, said the two “wrong” choices several times. When I first witnessed this, I was amazingly frustrated and wanted to blurt out “Just say the other choice!” But professionalism prevailed and eventually they said the right choice (after a LONG while).

At the time I thought that either the test subjects must be stupid, or I was totally unclear when I explained the task. Actually, I was wrong on both counts. What had happened was that the subjects had heard part of an introduction prompt that caused them to form a different mental model than the one the designer had in mind. The test subjects tried to adhere to this mental model until finally giving up and trying the “correct” command. It was at this point that they began to form the correct mental model—but clearly in a less than optimal way. When I realized what had happened, I suggested that the designer change the introductory message—and the problem went away.


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