The Usability Exchange website launches on 16 March 2006…
…to provide instant user testing with disabled users. Organisations can now find out what disabled people think of their website by logging on to www.usabilityexchange.com. This launch comes just as the British Standards Institution (BSI) published new guidance last week (PAS 78) for those who commission or maintain websites, to ensure that any site they make or maintain is user-friendly for disabled people.
The Usability Exchange allows website developers to receive direct feedback from disabled people regarding the accessibility and usability of their websites - developers can even watch testers attempt to navigate their website through the use of remote viewing software. [...]
Through the Usability Exchange, website developers can create simple or complex usability tests and submit them to a range of disabled users. Once a test has been submitted to testers, organisations can monitor users’ feedback in real time, with some testers providing feedback within hours of being contacted. All testers receive payment for testing websites, offering a flexible source of income for disabled testers.
The service is aimed at organisations who want to conduct usability testing of their websites with disabled users, as well as charities and consultancies who require an effective platform for conducting disabled user testing on behalf of clients. Organisations or consultancies intending to submit large numbers of tests can sign up as ‘premium partners’ to receive volume discounts.
The BBC has an interesting news article on the subject, including some good comments from Julie Howell:
Although she welcomed the arrival of the service, Ms Howell said she had a couple of concerns.
Firstly, she said Usability Exchange had to demonstrate the quality of the testing work being done.
It’s one thing to put businesses in touch with disabled people,she said,but what’s the quality of the process involved here?
The company would have to work hard to ensure the information fed back to clients was useful.
That does not mean making it all positive but making it all honest,said Ms Howell.
The last thing any business would want was to test with Usability Exchange and then find that disabled people cannot use their website.
Ms Howell said she also had worries about the well-being [ed.: meaning "best interest of" with regards to their welfare benefit payments] of the disabled testers employed by Usability Exchange.
She urged those taking part to let the government know they were taking on employed work.