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Chapter Eight. Usability Testing > The Test Subjects

The Test Subjects

The results of a usability test are only meaningful if the test subjects are representative of the people who will actually use the application. This may seem obvious, but I've often seen companies use their own employees as test subjects. Sometimes they can give good feedback, particularly if they are the employees who regularly work closely with customers, such as bank tellers or customer service representatives, or when the company is testing an application to be used by the company's employees.

However, more often than not, employees want the system to work in a way that works best for them—not for the actual users! For example, if an airline application said, “Please say your reservation code,” an airline employee might say, “Well, it should say 'PNR'—for Passenger Name Record. That's what it's called.” However, most people who fly don't know what a “PNR” is (though they do understand the concept of a “reservation code”). Employees may be the lowest-cost and most easily available test subjects, but they're clearly not the optimal choice, unless of course the application is intended for employees.


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