Nat Friedman has a good post on usability testing:
Over the last several months we at Novell have sent a team of people around the world with a portable usability testing lab…
It is amazing to watch the ways that people fall on their face. We’ve all read about the benefits of usability testing, but until you actually try to sit still through two hours of these videos, it isn’t a visceral experience for you. It is exciting, and totally emotionally exhausting. You squirm. And it focuses you like a laser.
For example, we asked a lady to send mail to a friend. Against all odds, she started Evolution (nothing in the menus indicates that it’s a mail program; something we hadn’t realized before but which was immediately obvious after watching her stalk one-by-one through the menu items muttering to herself along the way).
The correct next step would have been for her to click on the “New” button that’s in the upper-left-hand corner of the window. This button didn’t even register for her, however. Instead, because she wanted to “send” a mail, she clicked repeatedly on the “Send” part of the “Send / Receive” button just to the right. For about a minute.
The lovely dialog box is not from Nat’s testing, but from SunTrust’s Internet Banking Help pages. The very smart people over at Apple solved this by saying that dialog boxes should contain verbs, and maybe extra descriptive words. Perhaps “Cancel Payment” and “Don’t Cancel Payment” would make for fine buttons. Nah. Then what would the help desk people do?
(Speaking of usability, why can’t I just drag and drop an image into MarsEdit?)