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February 26, 2004



Claim 1: "Usability testing must be conducted in the user's natural setting".

In my opinion, one should use it with common sense. If the user environment is an average household or office then it is not that needed hard.

And sometimes it is not possible. By instance, software in use in the surgery room, I don’t think any doctor will allow an annoying usability expert inside that room while doing a real surgery.

On the other hand, in some occasions it could be very useful.

One of my clients created some software to test medical devices. The actual tests were performed by labourers in a plant.

Nobody of the development team ever visit those labourers while in action in the plant.

So the design of the software was perfect as long as you were using it in an average office.

In reality those labourers were using it differently. They are not sitting down, they use 3 or 4 computers at the same time (and thus instances of the test software) and those computers were located about 3 meters from each other.

In short, after this analysis we decided to do some redesigns. The software is now more fitted to the actual situation of the users. Every body was satisfied.

Before, nobody complained about typical usability mistakes.

• Because usability knowledge was not available
• The business analysis did not occur.
• The labourers were not motivated to say their opinion aloud. One supervisor told me: “What do they know about it anyway?”. In away they didn’t dare to say what’s on their mind.

• The labourers are less tired and create less mistakes
• Production increased

In short, I have some great experiences with contextual task analysis.

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