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An OCLC product should be easy-to-use and easy-to-learn (i.e., usable) by the user of the product. One way of acheving this is through usability testing, a process that identifies problems in the ease-of-use and ease-of-learning of a product by watching users do specific task with the product.

At OCLC, this process occurs early in the products' deelopment, and also results in suggestions to designers for ways to improve a product's usability.

When to do a usability test

Usability testing can be applied at every stage of product development. It is particularly effective in the initial stages of development  when changing a product's user interface or design is less expensive. (e.g., during the requirements gathering or product design with mockups stage).

What to test

When the user interface component of a product is available, this component can be usability tested.

However, it is very expensive to change this component when it is already part of the actual product. Hence, a more cost-effective approach is to test in the initial stages of developmenta mockup of the user interface.

The mockup may range from a sophisticated pseudo-product, created with third-party software such as Axure, to an unsophisticated series of screen drawings.


The HCI team is probably best known for doing usability testing in the OCLC Usability Lab (Ulab). The Ulab was established in July 1990 and since that time, has usability tested over 120 products with more than 500 users.