The Power of Doing it RITE

I was once again reminded of just how powerful user feedback can be. And this time it was a RITE Usability study that reopened my eyes.

If you're not familiar, RITE stands for Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation, a variation of traditional usability testing documented by researchers at Microsoft in 2002. In short, you test a design with five users on Day 1, improve the design based on feedback on Day 2, test again on Day 3, iterate on Day 4, and then test the final design on Day 5 with eight users. A RITE study is not always appropriate, such as when there are many tasks or if the design is quite fixed, but whenever possible I'd highly recommend it. Here's why.

Some benefits of the RITE Method:

Team collaboration: The development and design teams REALLY get into it. With traditional usability testing it's sometimes hard to get dev and design to attend even one session, but here it's a requirement. The user feedback quickly initiates intense collaboration sessions which are just plain fun. And it's very rewarding when changes to the designs resolve problems found earlier.

Client satisfaction: If the client attends any of the sessions they quickly see the value of user feedback, as well as the team's problem-solving skills and creativity in action. Usually this voodoo is behind the curtain, but putting it in plain sight actually demonstrates the value of the work.

Time savings: There's a reason "Rapid" is part of this method's name. The changes between the first and final designs were absolutely dramatic in our study. (Unfortunately we can't show the screens due to client restrictions.) We tested a Flash-based tool for narrowing down TVs of interest from a large number of choices.

Though it's not practical to go through all the changes, there were dozens of improvements based directly on user feedback. Most importantly, the most severe usability issues were completely resolved in the final iteration.

While there are challenges associated with the RITE Method such as perceived higher-costs (I say "perceived" because arguably it's actually less expensive but it buckets the costs more up-front) and a demanding schedule, I think the benefits easily tip the scale.

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