Usability Test Level: Desktop

As we all know usability tests are used to make sure your products User Interface. However if you are providing desktop application testing services the experience is, at some point, dramatically different from web of mobile testing sessions. To fully understand what we will be dealing with we should sit straight inside our little time machine and travel back to where it all began. Just remember, don’t step on any bugs in the past or you will change the future as we know it!

Back in the day…

So do you remember the first software available to users? Despite it was mostly something programmers were creating for other programmers, uses had a chance to benefit from new solutions and they were guided through the process.

Software was straight-forwarded back in the day with one entry point and one exit point hence users were guided with series of screens ordered in an appropriate manner. Customization ability was a miracle back then and, by the way it was mostly terrifying. The process of software installation was entirely manual so were the configurations, meaning all was modified with hands. It was hard and even if manual were provided they were not written in common understandable language hence tech support lines were smoking hot from callers and maintenance expanses skyrocketed. Some magic was required only a true Wizard could perform.

The world of today

And we are back home now with the apps we all are used to, apps users love and feel comfortable with. How did they become that much better if usability is considered? Applications are a business now and more people have access to PCs than earlier. People who are not skilled programmers but still require appropriate software. Target audience has revolutionized the world of software development.

This leads us to a fact that desktop usability tests must consider all kinds of users, from a third grader to a nuclear physicist or even a senior person that launces a PC on his own for the first time to Skype with children. That’s hard, right? The installation process is what really differs today’s desktop apps from their elder family. Users are guided with sets of screens and easy choices while the app is being installed, which is nice. That is called the Wizard concept and it may now be found in multiple areas of the system and the OS like network configurations, the process of adding new hardware and etc. This allows pretty much all users to install software on their own without breaking a sweat. Where is all this headed? That change and the result is indeed what people call Usability!

What is desktop usability attempting to achieve?

Before testing we need to realize what to test. To fully understand that we are to realize true goals of Usability. The example above is pretty precise but it surely does not cover all possible aspects. Desktop apps have lots of potential and functionality. They are configurable and customizable. Apps have tons of various toolsets, bars and menus within themselves. But this variety may be confusing or even irritating at some points. Making the most required application functionality easily accessible is usability. With such an approach tasks are performed faster, with more comfort and within less time. Making sure things are done exactly like told above is usability testing.

Also applications are personalized today. Many provide sets of customized skins and themes with adjustable elements users may choose to their liking. This approach grants more satisfaction to users, makes your software more addictive, hence it’s not only yours now, and it’s something your users created on their own. Making people happy is usability. Making sure all that works is usability testing.

There may be even more examples added to the subject like the Help part of the apps of even software suits however we may define usability with but one sentence. Usability is the ability of users to perform whatever task they require with minimal effort and within minimal time. Making sure your app works in that way is usability testing.


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TestFort blog is an official blog of TestFort QA Lab company and is dedicated to various QA and software testing issues.


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