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Chapter 12. Evaluating Web Usability > Traditional Usability Testing

Traditional Usability Testing

Usability testing has long been regarded as essential to good iterative design practices in the software world. Traditionally, usability test methods have been used as evaluation techniques for industrial design artifacts and computer software and hardware. These methods include heuristic techniques, such as expert reviews and cognitive walkthroughs, as well as formal user testing, such as usability lab tests, human factors experiments, and prototype testing. In addition, usability evaluators have used ethnography, field evaluation methods, and data collection, using questionnaires and interviews for task and audience analyses. For a detailed discussion of formal usability testing methods, see Nielsen (1997a, 1993) and any of a number of Human Computer Interaction textbooks (Shneiderman, 1992, 1998; Mayhew, 1992; Preece, et al., 1994; Dix, et al., 1998).

We perform usability evaluation to determine how people use systems and where they may encounter difficulty of use. There is ample evidence that development costs are reduced significantly as a result of employing usability techniques (Sun Microsystems, http://www.sun.com/usability.benefits.html). Training and support costs are also reduced. Landauer (1995) suggests that user-centered approaches reduce training time by 25 percent. Other investigators support claims that organizations save substantial amounts in redesign and support costs (Bias and Mayhew, 1994). Usability testing is especially helpful when integrated into an iterative design paradigm, including usability inspection methods such as heuristic evaluation and competitive analysis.


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