Here are the main points that we followed to be able to fit formal usability testing into the Agile schedule. By doing so, our team greatly improved the task flow and user interaction for the features tested.
Our usability team is cross-functional, made up of people who have a "day job” but are also passionate about usability. Our team is composed of: a user interface (UI) developer, a tester, an Information Development (ID) representative, an Outside In Design (OID) representative, and a sponsoring manager.
Our team conducts 5-6 usability sessions at the beginning of a sprint, each with a single user. We recruit users who are typical for our product: either external customers (existing or new, who are participants in the Early Adoption Program) or internal customers (Level 3 Support, Services, or Sales).
Testing with 5 users is sufficient to reveal 80 percent of the usability issues. This way we received enough feedback on the main flow, and we were able to figure out the top priority issues. For more information about testing with 5 users, see Jakob Nielsen’s article Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users.
Our team calls the first week of a sprint “the usability week.” Usability sessions are 1.5-2 hours long. Additional time is needed to set up the environment for the session, write the script, and summarize the results. We conduct moderated sessions, both in-person (in the Usability Lab) and remotely (using IBM LotusLive).
By keeping a consistent schedule, we know we are getting feedback from customers every sprint, so we can plan accordingly to fix the issues in a timely manner. After a few sprints of consistent usability testing, it becomes second nature for teams to validate their developed features with users, as shown below.
1. Obtain feedback within first week of sprint. Incorporate feedback into the design.
2. Incorporate usability feedback. Depending on the severity of the problems found, the feedback is applied to the development or the design work.
3. Validate solutions by a combination of internal testing and additional usability tests.
4. Repeat entire cycle every sprint.
Continue with How Tivoli Provisioning Manager integrated usability testing in Agile - Part 2, where I am sharing some other important points.