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Usability Testing

Usability Testing Essentials

Instructor: Ann McKibbon - Professor Emeritus & Past Director, MSc in eHealth, McMaster University

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Usable systems are essential for successful implementation and improvement in clinical care. Designers are often not the best judges of how useful and successful a system will be—those who use the system everyday should be consulted (early and often) to help insure success of that system. Formal usability testing has the tools and techniques that can help informaticians build the best possible system in conjunction with those who will ultimately use the system. Several types of usability testing exist such as cognitive “walk throughs” where an expert or expert users will check every link and choice to eliminate poor process, deadends, lack of help or escape opportunities, and illogical or redundant steps. A more common type of usability testing is to give users, both experienced and novice, tasks to complete with the system and view where problems occur. This session will explain various methods of usability testing, what to expect from each, and tips on efficient testing of new or existing systems.


  • To understand the importance of a useable and useful interface for users
  • To come to an appreciation of the importance of involving users early and often in the design or planning phases of projects
  • To become aware of the various kinds of usability testing (including who is invloved in each, and what issues each kind can address)
    • cognitive walk through
    • review of a system while interacting with a user
    • formal usability testing with "talk aloud" methods and user performing tasks
  • To know the numbers of users needed to obtain useful information about a system across various usability tools and techniques
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