When most people think of performing usability testing, they think of using novices to see if the website is apparent to someone with very little experience. However, having now reviewed several hundred user tests done by both novice and experienced internet users, we’ve realized that both yield interesting information.

The novice user is interesting because they don’t have a predictable model in their minds, so it’s illuminating to see how they approach tasks. On the other hand, experienced users have higher expectations – they’ve seen lots of good websites, they tend to be less forgiving when something isn’t done right, and sometimes even point out other sites that perform a certain functionality better.

Read more: Comparative usability testing

In fact, the thing that most makes a test useful seems to be how comfortable the tester is in articulating their thoughts and impressions as they approach tasks, thereby giving us insight not only into what they are doing, but also why they are taking the approaches they are taking and what impressions and experiences they have as they do this. Perhaps not curiously, women seem to be more comfortable with this.