Think you can’t do your own usability testing? Think again! Steve Krug, the author to the bestselling, Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, has a do-it-yourself approach guide to finding and fixing usability problems, called Rocket Surgery Made Easy. His premise is that we know that usability testing can dramatically improve products, but by focusing on finding the most important problems, one morning a month, you can catch problems early in a design process, while it is still easy to fix them. He provides a video of a short usability test, scripts, checklists, and everything you need to do your own usability testing.
Krug isn’t the only one that recommends regular, consistent testing. Jakob Nielsen founded the “discount usability engineering” movement for fast and cheap improvements of user interfaces and has invented several usability methods, including heuristic evaluation. His article Fast, Cheap, and Good Usability, points to the bottom-line–if you can do more rounds of cheap testing, you will learn more about user needs. And, what the user needs, is the single most important thing to remember in design.