Designing products for real people requires frequent testing with a range of people who will use the item. Here is a story about user testing of shampoo and conditioner bottles.
Simon and Paul were asked by a cosmetics company to design shampoo and conditioner bottle that not only looked good but were practical to consumers. Their first attempt produced two identical bottles in an attractive green colour.
They asked Karen to test the bottles to see how practical they were. Karen needs glasses and she found that the bottles were difficult to tell apart while she was in the shower washing her hair.
Paul and Simon went back to the drawing board and produced two different coloured bottles.
Jasmine was asked to test these bottles. She is colour blind and although she can see well enough to read what was on the bottles she reported that both bottles appeared the same colour to her. She said that if they were different shades she would be able to distinguish between the bottles easier when she was washing her hair.
So Simon and Paul had another attempt at designing the bottles to meet the needs of people who are colour blind. They produced bottles of different shades.
This time they asked Kendal to test the bottles. She was the youngest in the family and the last to get her turn in the shower. She used the bottles when she was in a rush to get to university on time. The conditioner bottle was half empty and she wasted valuable time shaking the bottle before she could get enough to condition her long hair. She suggested that the conditioner bottle have a flat lid so it could stand upside down making it easier to squeeze out.
Paul and Simon produced their fourth prototype.
All three ladies tested the new design and all were happy with the results.
Usability testing is about testing for a wide range of users to produce a design that is both attractive and usable. There are many household products that look attractive but have some basic usability flaw. Usability testing needs to be done regularly throughout the design process.