Userfocus Usability Newsletter, September 2013

Welcome to the September edition of the Userfocus usability newsletter.

Message from the Editor

My mother came to visit at the week-end. I tell you this not because I'm trying to move our relationship to the next level but because it illustrates a problem you might have had in the past. She's nearly 84, a bit frail physically, but still intellectually sharp. It's therefore always been a bit of a disappointment to me that I've not been able to explain to her what I do for a living. This concept of the "elevator pitch": well, I could never find one that would work for my mum.

In the past, I've tried various options. "I design new technology," I once said. This even made me yawn -- and I also heard my internal voice disagreeing: "No, you don't. That's way to broad. Be more specific." Another time, I tried, "I design web sites," and immediately flinched: when did I become a web designer? What about the physical products you've worked on? Or the desktop software you've had a hand in? Or the interactive voice response system you tested? Changing tack, I once tried, "I design stuff that's easy to use, like Apple," but immediately felt guilty since every product is a team creation and here I was claiming ownership of the entire product.

So this week-end I was amused when my mum said, "I know what you do". OK, let's hear it, I thought.

"You're a psychologist. You read people's minds."

Everyone with a qualification in psychology will be familiar with this. Introduce yourself as a psychologist and the next words you'll hear are: "Are you psychoanalysing me?" So I wasn't surprised. She got my standard response:

"I'm not that kind of psychologist," I said.

"OK, then," she said. "You read the minds of customers. You tell companies what their customers are thinking."

Maybe she had been listening after all. "I read the minds of customers". I think that's a very good summary of the work I do.

I'm now looking forward to being in an elevator with a few senior managers of a company I'm consulting with. As we strike up a conversation between floors, and they ask me what I do, I'll say: "I read your customers' minds."

At least no-one will yawn.

One of the key techniques we have in our toolbox for reading customers' minds is the usability test. This month I've written about a new way of creating a concise usability test plan. I hope you find it useful..

David Travis

Feature article: The 1-page usability test plan

The Usability Test Plan is a critical document to help you manage and organise a usability test. But it can sometimes appear too documentation-heavy in agile environments. What would a usability test plan look like if it was re-envisioned as a single page? Read the article in full: The 1-page usability test plan.

What we’re reading

Some interesting usability-related articles that got our attention over the last month:

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Online training in user experience

We have two online training courses in user experience. They are priced at $199 but newsletter subscribers can save money on each one by using these links:

Usability Training: Now Booking

Web Usability: An Introduction to User Experience, Sept 23-24, London.

This web usability training course will give you hands-on practice in all the key areas of usability, from identifying your customers through to usability testing your web site with them. 2 places remaining. More information about this training course: Web Usability: An Introduction to User Experience.

User Experience quotation of the month

“Because every person knows what he likes, every person thinks he is an expert on user interfaces.” — Paul Heckel.

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