Do You Even Test?

During the workshop here at Oracle in Redwood shores, we were taught about the importance of usability testing. Maybe that is why I noticed the switches in the washroom at my hotel.

Can you tell what they do? On entering the washroom, I press the button closest to the door on the assumption that it will turn on the light. Instead, a fan goes on. So I press the other one, and the light goes on. Learning: Press both.

After a couple of days, I accidentally press only the second button from the door and get both light and a fan. Mystery. So what does the first button do? It turns out that it turns on a hot air blower in the ceiling next to the ventilation fan.

So every time I entered the washroom, I started one device to blow hot air into the room and another to suck it back out. No wonder we’re burning a lot of fossil fuel. If only 5% of hotels in the US have this usability problem, the 1 billion hotel nights in the US alone waste about 440 MWh per year – about the total yearly electricity consumption of Mali. A trivial usability test with five people would have found this issue.

Do you test your applications for usability?