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Formative Usability Testing

The best thing you can do to improve the usability of a product is empirically test aspects of the product early in development. Forward-thinking, long-term optimization of quality requires iterative formative testing in which actual users, even just a handful of users, engage with aspects of the product. Iterative testing makes things better and better — and also cuts off problems at the pass. The worst time to discover a serious usability problem is after product launch, resulting in a recall. The second-worst time is pre-market but after product development is otherwise complete, when even minor changes require costly re-engineering and re-tooling. But, if you put early versions of your product in the hands of users, changing paths in light of how people actually use the product is not only do-able, but highly desirable. There is no substitute for empiricism in design — users will always surprise you. It is far better to be aware sooner rather than later. Formative studies can start off simple — depending on your product, a formative study could start early in development using just a piece of paper with a drawing on it. We can help you design effective formative studies tailored to your product. In addition, we can help you determine design changes based on formative results.