I am re-posting the following IBM internal blog posting from Chris Samoiloff in a public forum because I agree with everything Chris said. Thank you, user research and usability team!
From Christ Samoiloff-- our prototyping guru:
Speaking of usability— was I? This past week I had some extra cycles to help our usability specialists with Hannover testing. I have worked with these same people creating web prototypes for early testing. However, this past week opened my eyes to just what it takes to be a usability specialist. Here is my list of qualifications to be a usability specialist – nevermind the degrees:
- It takes supreme patience—patience with people, patience with complex and buggy software, patience with people coming in to test, patience with people who have no clue about how to do this job who are helping for the week.
- It takes discretion— discretion to handle buggy software without dissing it to our testers. "Yes, that feature is not currently available."
- It takes humility—There were lots of technical issues setting up a complete Hannover environment. Some usability specialists have a bit of technical knowledge, but that is not their primary job qualification. So they are forced to rely on the goodwill of technical people who can help them work out all the issues needed to get the product up and running. And sometimes they must even ask questions more than once because there is so much to learn. And they have to learn it because they are putting it in front of users.
- It takes flexibility, creativity, and quick thinking— the ability to scratch plan A and go to plan B when they find asking the user to do something isn't supported by the software at this time (and maybe even crashes the thing).
- It takes detective work— this is something I helped with and I got a complete feel for how hard it is. Usability testers have to find testers who fit the profile of the personaes they have used in their scenarios (an AA, a president of a company, an individual contributor). First there is finding these people. Then there is getting them to agree to take a couple of hours out of their day to participate in a test (with minimal reimbursement, really).