Client – "Yes, and additionally I'd like to get some usability studies done prior to launch."
You – "Fuck." (I'd advise simply thinking this part)
Let's face it, if you've been designing websites, applications or prototyping interfaces for any length of time you always get the dreaded request for a third-party usability study. Normally this means a pass-through cost that you'll never see, and endless rounds of revisions. Well a new service "Usabilla" now allows for you to serve up your work for a test audience with relatively minimal expense. Yes, you're still stuck doing a 1k rounds of revisions based on the feedback. But you'll be able to stomach the revisions knowing at least you're being paid adequately for your efforts in taking the time to test it.
The premise is very basic. You create an account, and link your test pages (or screen shots respectively) to your account and then you assign questions against the work posted. The application itself has a number of 'pre-fab' questions you can add as well.
SIDE-NOTE: The fact that you can test static comps' and wire frames is [very] nice for designers and developers too as you don't have to the work through development (wasting hours, and often losing capital) to get some definitive third-party feedback. Start to think about creating large IA's and you'll start to see the nightmare that will be your life if you push it all up on a dev' server only to have the client something like "where's registration page?" Boo.
While I've not used the service I feel it would be a phenomenal asset given the results that you received. That will remain to be seen. I might participate with this application on both ends of the spectrum to see how it truly works – if so I'll report back.
It's not like I didn't see it before but it seems that Microsoft isn't the only one using Apple as their R&D department. Google seems to be on their own "embrace and extend" model to scoop up the small firms that have reasonably good thinking and see how they can all fit together. I'm not sure however that this is the best idea for Google. I'd think silent partner would be a better return, but then they wouldn't get their pretty logo on it.
They web as we know it, this week, is breaking into more and more of a finite medium. People seek out a specific interests, and then within that a sub-interest and within that they usually plant a seed as the expert deep within that chosen niche. Smart web offerings aren't coming in as the 'all for one' model anymore because frankly, companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple simply have too much fiscal control.
Back Google Audio, it seems a little strange to me that Google would enter this extremely over saturated market but who am I to say what a multi-billion dollar conglomerate should do – I mean they never call ; ) But Google
"Google will announce a new playable-music search service next Wednesday, creating a special box in search results with links to songs to stream and download, multiple sources familiar with the situation told Wired.com. The service — likely called Google Audio — will be powered in part with streaming music from LaLa and recommendations from iLike, the sources said."