Re: usability testing as a career

Subject: Re: usability testing as a career
From: Kat Nagel <katnagel -at- EZNET -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 19:16:17 -0500

>I'm a student who is majoring in technical communications. One aspect
>of the field that really
>interests me is getting feedback from customers about the product and
>its documentation--otherwise
>known as usability testing. Technical writers do various amounts of
>testing, depending on the company. What kind of career options are
>available for doing usability testing on a full-time basis? What
>types of software companies have usability labs? What is this person's
>job title?
>If you have any information on this subject, please enlighten me!

Welcome, Mandy.

It isn't just software companies that do usability testing.
Manufacturers of office equipment (copiers, fax machines, mailroom
equipment), medical devices, laboratory products, test equipment,
automobiles, and panty hose---they all have someone who collects
usability information from customers (or test subjects).

Sometimes it is a usability specialist who does a formal usability
test done in a controlled environment with videotapes and rigid
protocols. Sometimes it's a member of a quality control department.
Sometimes it is a sales or marketing person who takes a prototype
gadget out to a customer site and watches people try to break it.
Sometimes it is an engineer who goes out an looks at competitors
products before he starts designing his own product.

Job titles vary, unfortunately, so it's sometimes hard to know what
sort of position to list in the OBJECTIVES section of your resume.
You might try contacting companies like those I mentioned above, and
talking to someone in the HR department. If they have a job
description for that kind of position, they might be willing to put
you in touch with the manager of that department to ask a few

Oh, and there is (or, at least, there used to be) a mailing list
devoted to usability testing called UTEST. When I hung out there a
couple of years ago, they had members with a variety of job titles
working in all kinds of companies. If the list is still active, you
could probably get some useful information from them.

Good luck!

K@ katnagel -at- eznet -dot- net
Kat Nagel, MasterWork Consulting Services
Technical writing | Editing | Conversions | Webstuff

"The transformation of calories into words, of words into money,
and of money into calories again are the three cycles in a
freelance writer's metabolism." /Mary Kittredge, _Poison Pen_

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