Stumbled over this fine article that gives you rebuttles to all the arguments against user testing including some of my favorites, such as “Users don’t know what they want… we’ll tell them” and “We don’t have time/money for user testing.” Check it out and be armed for your next battle with management:
Interaction Architect: Knowledge Base
So, I know I harp on user research and usability, like, all the time. and some might be wondering, “She’s an IA. Why does she carry on about all this human factors stuff?”
Glad you asked. I think of usability folks as researchers of human behavior, and IAs as designers of human interfaces. We are joined at the hip, really. By gathering a rich understanding of how users behave we can create humanized information spaces. Sure, the dewy decimal system is usable, but is it user-friendly? And if you had a choice betwen going to a card catalog and looking up a book, or going to a search engine and searching on a word, which would you choose? Or better yet, would you prefer to ask a friendly looking librarian for help?
At the ASIS summit on IA, Jennifer Flemming told an interesting story from the days when she was a librarian. She was working in the children’s section, and a little girl came up and asked her for “the big purple book I was reading last week” Jennifer was able to find it, but could a search engine? It is only by understanding how each unique group of users conducts their searches (or attempts to complete their tasks) that we can begin to build successful interfaces.
IA can never been a pure intellectual exercise. It will always have to be tied to our understanding of how users behave in a given situation… which is why IA can’t exist without usability testing and user research. But feel to disagree with me.