Usability is a key quality of any software
product. Software is purchased for a variety of reasons: entertainment,
communication, accounting, time management, or production. If
the software itself presents a challenge in achieving a result,
its intended purpose suffers even more. Most software automates
routine tasks, but can add layers of complexity and confusion
based on the interface, the way it functions, and suitability
to the work at hand. Prior to the introduction of the software
into the general market, it must be tested to assure that it
can be used by a wide cross-section of its intended audience.
The Sharps Solutions, Inc. has an in-depth program of customer
support options. From product documentation to direct telephone
support, our response structure assists customers with issues
and concerns ranging from implementation to operational reports.
You can always expect a focused response that meets your needs,
available when you want it.
- The failure of many development efforts is to rely solely on
users "wish lists." Asking users for lists of features
or fixes they want added to the next product is good public relations,
but is incomplete. These descriptions point to a need, but they
don't create a solution. A solution is based on meeting a real
need. Testing assures that real software users have a real tool
to meet daily challenges.
Goal Identification - Goals
are an essential element of testing. Definition of the testing
objective or objectives is critical to assure that correct information
is developed during the course of the investigation. Set reasonable
goals - and run a series of tests to investigate all the issues
highlighted by the goals. Testing goals can be formative or summative.
the overall goal of testing is to locate and define usability
deficiencies. A formative evaluation improves a product during
development, while summative evaluations analyze the quality
of the interface by quantitative means.
Test Plan Protocol - The
testing process is straightforward. Select users who would typically
use the feature being tested. Give them realistic tasks to complete,
ask them to "think out loud" while they work, and note
if they experienced frustration or satisfaction with the feature.
A usability specialist or developer sometimes prompts the user
for more information along the way, and answers questions to
keep the user on task.
Actual testing should begin with a discussion of the interface
for known usability problems and errors already documented but
unresolved. Fully instruct the respondents as to the evaluation
methodology and documentation tools provided. Assure the respondents
that any information is valuable; even if they "assume"
that inexperience and unfamiliarity cause usability challenges.
Additional triggers for usability evaluation include help desk
inquiries, email inquiries, and professional critiques of the