The most critical aspect of user-centered design, usability testing breaks down the wall between the designer and user, and allows us to see how real users do real tasks in the real world. There are many benefits of usability testing, including uncovering pitfalls in a current system before a redesign and evaluating the usability of a system during and after design. Usability testing should be an iterative practice, completed several times during the design and development life-cycle. The end result is an improved product and a better understanding of the users that we’re designing for.
Once you’ve completed your first round of usability tests, you’ll have some ideas about how to improve your methodology next time around. Part of the beauty of usability testing is that there’s no single “right” way to run things, and every test is different. The most important lesson is to learn from your mistakes and feed those ideas back into the next round.