Testing Expert Users

This week’s Alert Box article from Jakob Nielsen makes good reading, although it occurred to me that there could be something else to add to it.

The article is entitled “Testing Expert Users“, which makes it particularly relevant to us if we are involved in redesigning an existing system or service. It provides a lot of useful advice, and reminds us that although the returns from carrying out usability testing with ‘experts’ may be somewhat less than the improvements achieved by working with novices it is still worth doing.

But what is meant by ‘experts’, exactly? In this article, Nielsen is referring to expert users of a specific interface or system.

Domain experts

In the case of bioinformatics services, though, we may be trying to introduce something new to users who have a lot of domain expertise. These users may not be familiar with the new interface as such, but they may be expert in using similar systems, and are likely to have a head-start on completely novice users, or consumers, of this kind of service.

Something that Jenny and I are researching, for example, is how best to assess the requirements and expectations of such ‘advanced level’ or ‘power’ users, and build that in to the design and development programme. It is already allowing us to gain a lot of valuable insights.

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