During usability, when participants have trouble using something we often hear ‘I could do better but I’d just have to get used to it.’ This is a common phrase; it typically means there are usability issues. But maybe something more subtle is at play.

Sometimes the designs we test are not expected to be ‘walk up and use’ – in which case, ‘getting used to it’ might be a real thing. The design might be good, but it requires training. We have to know if the user is expected to have prior knowledge, require training, or need a ‘breaking in period’ (getting used to it!); if we don’t give the ‘breaking in’, the designs we test are not getting a fair evaluation. Experts perform differently from novices. Sometimes (often) user interfaces that novices find easy to use are frustrating to experts.

2 Comments

  1. Sam Alper

    Everyone is a novice at some time, though. Even after training there is first use. For something like this, would the best-case testing scenario be to test the first use situation and then bring back the same participants for testing after they’ve had a chance to get used to it? I anticipate the focus of each round of testing would be very different. Also, this becomes difficult if the product is not yet on the market and participants can’t take the product home to use it naturally.

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  2. Mick Rakauskas

    I’d argue yes (a product can be usable if someone has to get used to it) because “Usable” is relative to the intended users and context of use. Some UIs are meant to be walk-up-and-use; others have a prerequisite of deep knowledge and experience to appreciate the benefits. A user will find a product usable when they can take advantage of the function within the context of use.

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