How to find and fix usability problems

How to find and fix usability problems

  
I love the topic of usability, and although it is not something I work on every day, I love to read and talk about it and apply it whenever I can. The latest book I've read was Steve Krug's "Rocket Surgery Made Easy" that shows that anyone can do usability tests on the cheap with awesome results. Here's the 25 minute video of a demo usability test mentioned on the book.

What about you, have you ever done usability tests yourself? Do you plan to?

I would really love to hear your thoughts and experiences on usability, so if you are attending NextStep make sure you join me at breakfast on Friday.
Great breakfast roundtable on usability where we all shared our experiences.
We talked about:
  • How hard it is sometimes to get key users to give us feedback and how Embedded Change Technology makes it easier to gather that feedback, but how many still feel uncomfortable giving this option to users;
     
  • How using a consistent UI like the one provided by the Style Guide helps recognition and makes it easy on users to learn new features;
  • How some applications have too many user profiles and how hard it is to make tests with everyone;
     
  • How sometimes there needs to be a balance between more features and usability and how progressive disclosure can help with this;
     
  • How Agile with short sprints is a lot better than Waterfall to match the features implemented with user expectations, and how the Demo phase could be used to let the users show us how to use the application instead of the other way around;
     
  • We all wished we could do more tests and shared our surprises when we saw users working on our applications; 
     
  • How usability is a great way to dramatically reduce training costs (that are substantial when there are many users involved as it was the case with some of the systems we talked about):
     
  • João, who had participated in a usability test in OutSystems a few years ago, was actually on our table and we shared all the things we had learn from his testing to make the Agile Platform better;
     
  • We all whined a bit about how hard is it to make everyone in a company aware of the importance of usability;
     
  • We all want to make (more) usability tests so the way to go is just to get our hands to it ASAP.  Here's the link to the very pragmatic book I mentioned "Rocket Surgery made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems". It's a short book, you can read it in a day, and start your half-day-monthly-usability-test by next month.
Did I miss something?

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences and keep on pushing for usability and for your users.
 
I would add:
  • Take nothing for granted, measure everything. If you think that you can place yourself in your user's head, you're wrong
  • If you're into Agile, you have one of the best methodologies for dealing with usability: prototype and test as early and as often as possible, go iterating throughout the design whilst measuring and gathering feedback. You will fail at first (that's certain) but with iterative improvements you can get real close to perfection
As for extra content, I think that this presentation called Designing Bing: Hearth and Science on how the Bing team at Microsoft went iterating through the design steps in order to come up with something good enough to take a big slice of search share out of Google (something which they've successfully accomplished) is worth watching.