A usable usability test

I’m often asked one question about usability tests, and usually just one: “How much will it cost?” The more I research the more I realize that there’s new tools and methods every day, practically, and all of them can help test a site. There are huge lists of resources on many good UX sites… but tools aren’t as important as answering one very important question.

The important thing to find out is “What do we want to know?”

Depending on the answer to THAT question I can give an exact, specific answer about which usability testing I recommend. If I know what my client wants to learn I know how to test a concept or site. You see, answering the question “What is the problem?” is completely different than answering the question “Why is this a problem?”  It’s the difference between, say, using web analytics or an ethnographic study – in both cases I’m paying attention to how people behave, but one is a “What?” answer and the other is a “Why?” answer.

A usability test isn’t very usable if it’s not asking the right question.