We learn so much from our customers, and wanted to pass on the goodness. We recently checked in with Andy Shield, founder of Red Bullet, a research-led web development agency based in the UK.   Andy lives and breathes usability research, and uses OpenHallway (TryMyUI’s sister company).  Thanks for your perspective, Andy!

What’s the best part about your job? Insight.  I’ve always found usability tests fascinating and the insight we’ve gained over the last few years has helped to drive quality throughout our entire design and development process.  It’s reassuring to know that we can design for the masses rather than an elite group of expert users.

What prompted you to use OpenHallway and how has OpenHallway helped? I became aware of OpenHallway through the industry. There are plenty of competing products but I found most of them to be unreliable and buggy. It’s also slightly ironic that quite a few of them have usability issues…  OpenHallway is simple to use and quick to administer which means I can direct more of my grey matter towards interpreting the results.

What tips would you give to new users of OpenHallway? Start small by running some dummy tests with people you know. The most important element of a usability test is interpreting the results in a meaningful way. Hence, by exploring how to create tasks which produce insightful results, you can then approach a full scale test with a greater understanding of what you are trying to achieve.

In terms of the application itself, it’s self-explanatory, and it’ll only take a couple of dry runs to be fully up to speed.

What’s one of the key challenges of managing usability testing and what advice would you give? The challenges depend on the type of test you’re undertaking. For example, the greatest challenge for a moderated usability test is the logistics. Expect people to be late and in some cases not turn up at all. Always recruit more people than you need and have a short-notice reserve list. It pays to plan properly and think through possible issues well in advance. For example, we were commissioned to undertake a study for a client during the 2010 World Cup; hence we made sure that we didn’t arrange any of the tests on a match day.

For remote usability tests, remember to send out a very clear set of instructions as the users are taking the test without any handholding.

Whether the tests are moderated or remote, always offer a decent incentive and keep them short as people lose interest (no more than 45 minutes).

Also, remember to tell the participants (face to face or by email) that you’re not testing them, you’re testing the website. This encourages them to provide useful feedback as often people feel that they are to blame when an issue occurs.

Any suggested good read (blog, books, etc.) on usability testing you’d recommend? There are plenty of industry blogs on the subject, but I would highly recommend Steve Krug’s book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” which is an essential read for anyone involved in usability testing.  It may also help to gain an understanding of human factors by reading “What Makes Them Click” by Susan M. Weinschenk.

Find Andy on Twitter @andyshield or www.redbullet.co.uk

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