Reinventing Quality

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Simple Ways of Planning, Designing and Testing Usability of a Software Product

Software business is growing all over the world. Software systems are now being used by a broad audience, including majority of people do not related with IT business in any way. They do not know the process of software development, they often do not have any earlier experience with similar - or even any- software. Such audience has own expectations and needs regarding software products. If you meet them, you succeed. If you fail, you lose your market and customers.

While it is quite easy to collect needs related to the desired functionality of the software, it is usually much more difficult to foresee needs related to so called quality attributes. Usability is one of these qualities and it is even more difficult to plan and implement, than the other quality attributes, like efficiency or reliability. Why? Because usability is less measurable and subjective. Each person can have a different understanding of what is usable and what is not.

A common approach is to build a software and then pass it under usability testing before going into production. It is for sure better than nothing, but it is not the best solution. Testing for usability should be planned and conducted earlier, starting from requirements analysis and solutions modeling. Waiting with usability tests until the system is build can result in serious problems as changes in the solution design resulting from usability tests can be so complex that it would delay the release and introduce unnecessary risk.

The problem is that usability is still often considered as a less important factor, more important for websites, but not in case of other forms of software systems. This assumption is wrong, as usability it is one of the main factors determining the customer´s level of satisfactions from using a product. The second wrong assumption is the belief, that usability tests must cost much. If we start usability tests from testing requirements and initial designs, cost of testing will be lower than fixing defects found during late stages of testing or in the production.

The main idea of the presentation is to present simple ways of planning and implementing usability testing for any software product. The first part of the presentation is to present aims to explain how to plan and design usability using simple means derived from UX discipline - personas, stories, prototyping etc.

The second part of the lecture demonstrates how to conduct usability testing in relative easy and cheap way. There are many techniques and methods available for free - I will present some of them and show their application.

The main focus of the presentation is not just to describe the concept of planning and conducting usability testing but to provide real life examples and case studies so that the participant are able to understand pros and cons of specific techniques, chose the best options and apply them in their organizations/ projects.

Karolina Zmitrowicz, Quale magazine

Karolina Zmitrowicz currently works as IT consultant and trainer in Requirements Engineering and Quality Assurance fields. Karolina has a strong experience in the fields of requirements engineering, quality management, testing and project coordination. During her career she worked as Project Manager, QA Manager, Technical Writer, Business and System Analyst, ISO 9001 Consultant, IT Consultant and IY Trainer. She has international experience in banking and insurance sector: she worked for leading financial organizations in South Africa, Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Italy and Poland.

Between 2011 and 2013 she was an active member of REQB Board and was one of the main authors of IBAQB certification scheme. She is also a founder and Chief Editor of the Quale magazine, a free magazine for IT Experts in the field of Software Quality.