Very interesting comment posted on this debate about programming languages. The short form of the argument is that usability testing doesn’t work for products that have a steep learning curve, because by the time you’ve learned how to use the product effectively you’re too biased to comment on its usability fairly. I think there’s some depth to this argument: it may explain fundamental limits on usability testing for very high dimensional, very complicated products.
However, I also think it misses some of the potential for usability testing for languages. After all, one of the things that makes a language like Java annoying for the beginning is that there’s simply too much to learn before you can start doing real things with the language. Usability testing could be a very interesting way to differentiate between different languages that have similar power, to predict which ones would be best for beginners to learn.
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