RE: [NYT] Microsoft Relies Again on Inner Circle

From: Jim Whitehead (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 09:46:36 PDT

Actually, it is my understanding that Microsoft has had a usability group
since the early 90's. This group does stick actual users in front of MS
Software and paper prototypes to gather UI feedback.

One problem with this approach is that it's expensive and time consuming,
and requires people with a fairly unusual background (combination of CS and
Cog Sci. knowledge) to perform the work. Thus, it's hard to staff such

Note that there is a difference between "focus groups", which are more of a
marketing technique, and usability testing, which is typically only one or
two people interacting with the software specifically to analyze how well
they can use it. It assumes the marketing work of determining whether the
feature belongs at all has already been done.

- Jim

> Adam Rifkin wrote:
> ...
> > Not long ago, the company videotaped ordinary users as they
> tried to set up
> > their new computer systems. Mr. Allchin watched the videos, and recalled
> > being alarmed and embarrassed by some of the confusing
> situations in which
> > nontechnical owners of PC's found themselves.
> >
> > "I wanted to crawl underneath my desk," he said.
> Just as I suspected: It's obvious MS hasn't done any, or at least enough
> focus groups. Gee, they finally decided to try it.
> AOL has always lived on focus groups.

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