Tom Chi  

Testing the Developer

March 11th, 2005 by Tom Chi :: see related comic

When developers comes in to view their first usability test against their code, one of two things usually happen. The test either 1) engenders a sense of humility and starts them down the road to understanding the value of UCD, or 2) makes them like the user even *less*. Regardless of the outcome, the main event is usually very entertaining — not unlike a sports game where your favorite team can only lose points.

This week we’d like to hear some of your stories about developers watching tests. What was the craziest reaction you’ve seen? What was the best or worst outcome of the whole ordeal?

9 Responses to “Testing the Developer”
A Developer wrote:

*pouts* Stupid users!

pomade wrote:

Reaction from the developers were positive, I guess I was little suprised - I was expecting worst.

However, I did remember one funny incident….developers watching the usability test remotely as one of the participants completey failed several usability test scenarios. Developers showed up after the test for the debriefing (we invited them). One of the developer, very disappointed from her creation not being very usable, tried to show the participant an interesting “drag and drop” feature that I didn’t even existed in the system.
Participants replied “…very cool - but, I would never use it,….it’s making me do more work.” Developer’s jaw just dropped. I tried my best not to laugh :)

Moi wrote:

Why would the developers watch usability tests? We only implement your designs, after all. If you’ve fucked up then it is your problem, our fuck ups are documented in our bug tracking system.


Ron Zeno wrote:

“When developers comes in to view their first usability test against their code, one of two things usually happen.”

I see a third happen (or more correctly, the effects of a third outcome): the developer likes the designers and/or testers less. This is probably the most common outcome.

Anita wrote:

I had a wonderful experience working with developers. In one of the remote tests conducted, they were surprised that their system really works….and yes, they definitely understood the importance of having a UCD pro…

Ian Stalvies wrote:

Throughout development you typically get what Steve Krug refers to as “religious debates” - ie. different points of view, from different UX experience, pursued with a fundamentalist zeal (”everyone hates drop-downs” etc) In my experience UX testing resolves a lot of these arguments with the user as arbitrator. Assuming the “winner” of any particular point of difference isn’t smug, this often enables both sides to understand where the other’s been coming from by seeing the hypothetical arguments in action.

To me no particular link in the development chain should be excluded from having an opinion (note I don’t say responsibility) on other aspects of the process - after all, they should be interlinked and working together. So involving developers makes sense.

Cheers ;o)


Jay wrote:

I have had no negative experiences with developers or designers observing tests. They usually leave with a better appreciation of what I do and their users’ needs.

I’ve just started conducting remote testing where I have an “observation room” where observers watch the remote test and listen to the call on mute. I’ve heard 2nd hand that the room occasionaly breaks out in chears or someone will loudly urge the user to do the “right thing”. It sounds entertaining - too bad I have to facilitate the test!

Evelyn wrote:

Handling politics in the observation room is part of the job. The experience should not start with the participant clicking on the mouse. If briefed (in advance) and involved properly, most if not all developers (designers, managers, etc)do appreciate “user/customer feedback sessions”.

andreas wrote:

If there only weren’t users…
(my system runs perfectly (without them))

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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?