One of the perks of working at a university, particularly if you’re a geek, is free access to journal articles. When I have time, I try to take a look at what been published recently in the field of usability and Human Computer Interaction.
A recent find is Holingsed and Novick (2007) who provide a review of usability testing practices of the last 15 years. They show that heuristic evaluations and cognitive walkthroughs are the most popular, with formal usability studies being reduced in ambition or abandoned.
I can understand the attractiveness of heuristic testing as its ROI is relatively high. But, one of the reasons I value usability testing, with real volunteers, is that you actually get to meet the customer. It’s often way to easy to avoid the people who use our website and, as a result, avoid tackling some of the major usability issues we may have. Obviously, the method you use must suit the questions you are asking but, for me, every opportunity to meet and understand the customer should be taken.
Holingsed, T. Novick, D. (2007) Usability Inspection Methods after 15 Years of Research and Practice. SIGDOC’07:Proceedings of the 25th annual ACM international conference on Design of communication.
The next SIGDOC conference will be Sept 2008.