Joanne Bawa has written "What next? After the Usability report
," detailing what should happen after
the usability report has been written, which might be really useful information... provided usability reports are actually made.
is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal. Usability can also refer to the methods of measuring usability and the study of the principles behind an object's perceived efficiency or elegance. (From the Wikipedia, of course.)
Usability reports are generated from study groups that collect user impressions and usage patterns for a given application. Usability labs are typically found in large software shops, because such studies need to be fairly formal: blind tests, specific focus groups, and - as Ms. Bawa points out - "the softer sciences of psychology, anthropology and sociology; and the harder disciplines of program design; and the sheer reality of commercial product development." Apart from the latter two elements, these aren't found in most places, and even shops that can afford them don't make the investment.
The Usability Report is often the final product of a usability test. That makes sense. You were hired (or appointed, or even volunteered) to identify usability issues with a product or web site and document them. Getting that part right is a substantial, and difficult, task. But what comes next? Identifying usability issues doesn't make them go away – it just attracts the (often reluctant) attention of the people who are paid to make them go away. A true usability consultant (versus a usability test administrator) will commonly be asked to make recommendations about what should happen next to a product if its usability (and hence overall commercial success) is to improve.
So while the article focuses on what to do after the usability report is written (and ignores how such a report is generated - for that you're on your own!), it does a decent job of highlighting the practice of usability testing in the first place.
How do you gauge usability?