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Career profile: Usability tester

Career profile: Usability testerUsability testers use their expertise to make technology easier to use. Read on to find out more.

What is a usability tester?

Usability testers make sure that software, websites and other technology are easy to use. For example, they might investigate whether people find it easy to find a product in an online shop, or to use a mobile app.

These tests can make a huge difference to businesses: one website drove away $300 million worth of business with one badly-chosen button.

What does the job involve?

Usability testers spend a lot of time working with real users to test products. This means watching what people do when they use the product, encouraging them to talk about what they are doing and why they are doing it, and recording information about how easy it was.

Usability testers have to be good at spotting and recording what is happening without being distracted by what they expect. They also need to have statistical skills to work out whether differences between results are significant.

How do I get there?

Usability testing isn’t always done by professional testers: it can also be done by designers or programmers as part of the development process. If you do want to specialize in the area, consultancy firms, development agencies or large companies are the place to look: small organisations are unlikely to need a full-time usability expert.

A Human-Computer Interface (HCI) design or development degree can be a good start for a career in the area, but is not vital. These are usually postgraduate courses which you might take after an undergraduate degree in a subject like design or computer science.

The key requirement for a career is experience. When starting it out, you could get this by:

  • going to conferences and seminars
  • running your own usability tests and coming up with proposals for improvement
  • doing freelance work for local businesses, family or friends
  • looking for work experience placements with usability firms

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