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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Formal Usability Reports Vs Quick Results

Jakob Neilsen writes, Formal reports are the most common way of documenting usability studies, but informal reports are faster to produce and are often a better choice. Nielsen points to a usability practitioners survey covering 258 consultants on which methods they use to communicate findings from their studies reveal amongst other things :
- 42% produce a formal written test report with full details on the methodology
- 36% write a "quick findings" report
There's no one best approach to reporting usability study findings. Most people use more than one method, depending on their corporate culture and usability lifecycle approach. You can maximize user interface quality by conducting many rounds of testing as part of an iterative design process. To move rapidly and conduct the most tests within a given time frame and budget, informal reports are the best option. Preparing a formal slide-based presentation will simply slow you down, as will using videos or statistics. Instead, simply hold a quick debriefing immediately after the test, structured around test observers' informal notes on user behavior. Follow this meeting with a short email to the entire team (the shorter the email, the greater the probability that it will be read).
When speed becomes the norm in the business word, the findings need to be out quick –real quick. Jakob also writes about where it is absolutely essential to use formal study findings – situations like benchmarks and detailed competitive landscape assessments.

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