Brain power and usability testing
A bit from Jakob Nielsen's Becoming a Usability Professional
People frequently ask me what it takes to become a usability professional and get a job in the field. The answer lies in three characteristics that all great usability professionals share:
- Knowledge of interaction theory and user-research methodologies, especially the principles of user testing
- High brain power
- Ten years' experience running user tests and other usability activities, such as field studies
Unfortunately, only the first of these characteristics can be taught. Usability expertise is mainly an issue of talent and experience rather than theory. Much of usability work requires pattern matching, which is why it's so dependent on brain power and past experience: Once you observe slight traces of a usability issue in users' behavior, you must deduce the underlying implications for design.
A bad usability specialist will report, "User 1 liked this, but User 2 did not." Not much help for the design team. A good usability specialist combines the observations across multiple users, distills the patterns, and arrives at a conceptual insight that can drive the design.
(1) I guess it applies to any customer-centred something: it costs too much to adapt product for any customer, so you have to be able to recognise patterns and then offer related features to customise...
(2) I'm too fast for the patterns - I tend to jump fast to the patterns without describing "User 1 liked this, but User 2 did not". I guess, this is not good for a scientist: others have to be able to follow your thoughts as well...