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You say “potato,” I say “focus group”

August 12th, 2011 13 comments

There’s one phenomenon you really should be prepared for when you introduce the idea of usability tests in your organization…

Seriously. This really happens. All the time.

The problem is that a lot more people are familiar with focus groups than with usability tests. So sometimes no matter how often you correct them (politely and patiently, of course), they’ll still refer to your upcoming usability tests as…focus groups.

The good news is that as soon as you get them to actually come and observe a test, the difference becomes clear and the problem goes away. But until then, it can be disconcerting. And sometimes amusing.

Make sure you have your 30-second elevator pitch explanation of the difference down pat, something like

Usability tests are about watching people actually try to use what we’re building, so we can detect and fix the parts that confuse or frustrate them.

Focus groups are about having people talk about things, like their opinions about our products, their past experiences with them, or their reactions to new ideas that we show them.

So the main difference is that in usability tests, you watch people actually use things, instead of just talk about them.”

Categories: Usability

printf(“hello, world”)

August 11th, 2011 23 comments

For a long time now, I’ve written something new pretty regularly. Once every five years, like clockwork.

Three books in ten years

In between, I’ve never published much of anything. For example, 185 tweets in 2 years, and almost all of them just blatant (“Come to my workshop!”) self promotion.

140 characters just isn’t enough room for me to rub two thoughts together. And writing a whole article is as daunting to me as writing another whole book.

But I’m finally at a point where it seems silly to go for years without putting anything out there. So I’m going to try blogging.

I may not post often, but I will try to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high. (Or low. Whichever is the good one.) Hopefully, some of it will turn out to be useful to someone.

As my friend Joe Ferrara said in high school, “I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but I’d like to clarify a few things.”

Wish me luck.

Categories: Usability