No More Ponderous Usability Tests! Or…?

I’ve always found usability testing to be fast and agile; you just find someone to tell you how much your design sucks. That’s easy! :) It’s the user research part of designing an interface that usually takes forever. It’s also usually the part that your friendly neighborhood UXer never has time to do (unless it’s your job to spend time researching).

What Robert talks about in this short, 8-minute video, is pretty basic to me. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, but if you’ve been doing this type of work for more than a couple of years you likely work like this anyway. Unless your company’s business processes do not allow you to do it. If so, I am sorry.

watch on youtube

Robert Barlow-Busch argues that traditional usability testing is too slow to properly support an iterative approach to product design. He presents the “design checkpoint” as a complementary activity: an informal exercise in which 1 designer meets with 1 user for 1 hour every 1 or 2 weeks. From the “7 Minute Soapbox on User Experience” in Waterloo, Ontario on June 14/07, in which speakers had exactly 7 minutes to present their ideas.

This video is worth watching regardless of your experience though. I don’t think you can hear enough the “test early, test often” motif which is especially easy for software development.

Testing doesn’t have to be “ponderous” though. And frankly if testing is holding up the development process for any reason (other than lack of participants that fit the profile) you’re probably doing it wrong.

1 comment

  1. Hey Matthew, thanks for your comments on this video about design checkpoints. You’re entirely right that what I talk about “is pretty basic” — in fact, those three words more or less sum up the motivation behind design checkpoints. I began conducting these while a consultant at Quarry Integrated Communications, after noticing that clients tended to view usability tests as Special Events. When this happens, things tend to slow down. Perhaps this effect is worsened by the client/consultant effect? Hmm… Anyway, introducing design checkpoints often helped us to speed things back up again while shifting focus back to the purpose of usability: improving design! FYI that a brief commentary and slides are also available on my blog at

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