Monday, October 25, 2010

Usability test report requirements

I'm in a discussion with some colleagues about the requirements of a good usability test report. I don't get too wrapped up in the details of reports, since I'm usually the only one who reads the reports. I'm more concerned about the content of the presentation and discussion. I often don't send the report out in advance, since I've sometimes had project managers take the report and decline the meeting. It depends on who I'm dealing with. The content of the presentations contain the basic findings of a study, but the conclusions are written specifically for the audience. I try to connect the work to their own concerns, which are different by area: development, marketing, operations, finance, and so on. Sometimes the most valuable part of the exercise is the discussion following the presentation of results. It tends to surface a lot of the assumptions, attitudes, and opinions of the people receiving the report, and gives me a chance to respond to a lot of concerns.

The funniest requirement for a usability report was given to me by a previous manager, thankfully long departed. I finished a test and report and told the manager that I was going to set up a meeting with the project team to deliver the results. She said the project team didn't have time and that I should just send the report to them and skip the meeting. This team wasn't familiar with usability testing or usability reports so I said, "What if the project team has questions?" The manager replied, "Just write the report with enough detail so they won't have questions."

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