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4172RE: [agile-usability] Functional Testing Vs Usability Testing ?

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  • Jon Meads
    Apr 21, 2008
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      A couple of things:
      (1) Usability is more than just presentation. It has many dimensions and can be different things to different people. Usability to a customer service representative is likely to be more about efficiency and the opportunity to train the user would be expected while usability for school children would be entirely different. (I once conducted a usability test where the naive users performed the tasks well and the expert users failed.)
      (2) Only real users can truly think like users and not all users think alike. Truly valid usability testing requires real users and sufficient test participants recruited to cover the spectrum of users.
      (3) Understanding the reason for user problems can be non-trivial and usability and human factors expertise may be needed to determine the real cause of error. Also, expertise in facilitating usability testing is often required in order to obtain good data and to explore during the testing what might be leading the user to have difficulties.
      Functional testing can help improve usability by improving reliability and eliminating bugs especially by testing extreme user interaction (e.g. entering data no right-minded user would ever enter) - these factors are as a much a usability issue as any but they are far from sufficient. Also, it is very possible that usability problems may be discovered during functional testing but it is also possible that what a functional tester may decide is a usability problem really isn't one. Even top-level usability experts may identify what they think are usability problems during heuristic reviews that really aren't problems and, more often, they will not recognize a real usability problem. While functional testers may identify some usability problems, real usability testing would still be desired.
      Finally, I hope you realize that usability engineering is much more than usability testing. Usability testing, although extremely valuable, is just one tool that is needed to develop superior user interfaces that provide the user with the appropriate user experience that they desire.

      From: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com [mailto:agile-usability@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Manish Pillewar
      Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 1:05 AM
      To: agile-usability@yahoogroups.com; discuss@...
      Subject: [agile-usability] Functional Testing Vs Usability Testing ?

      Where unit tests deal with checking for coding errors
      at class levels, functional testing is more from an
      end users perspective. But the major difference
      between a functional test and an usability test would
      be the lack of design principles to evaluate for and
      having the users perspective while designing the
      functional testing criteria themselves. Functional
      testing works more within the boundaries of the
      work/task flows and checks if the intended output is
      available to the user whereas, usability testing works
      on evaluating exactly how it is presented to the user.
      Having said that a functional tester with a little end
      user empathy, common sense and good knowledge of
      usability principles, could work well as a usability
      tester as well.

      Seems to me, where I can train a BA to capture end
      user requirements fairly through contextual research,
      interviews,etc. I can train a QA as well to do
      some(some) usability testing for sure, with fair

      Any experience with this situation?
      Comments please.

      Manish Govind Pillewar
      User Experience Designer
      www.thoughtworks. com

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