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The View From Here: Who Would Want to Do Usability?

By Cliff Anderson

I have always been struck how certain people are attracted—often passionately—to the field of usability. Once they have been exposed to it, it seems that they almost have to get involved in it. They are also attracted to disciplines—technical writing, training, computers, psychology—that would naturally offer them that exposure.

This article looks at the results of a survey conducted in 2005 with eighty people in the field. The survey used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), one of the most respected personality inventories in the world.

Understanding Type

People score on one side of each dimen sion. Thus, someone could be strongly introverted, less strongly intuitive, moderately feeling, and barely judging at all. The different dimensions combine to produce one of sixteen types—for example, INTP, ESFJ, or INFP. Each type has a unique set of qualities, values, behaviors, styles, likes, and dislikes.

The Survey

The survey tallied the types of eighty people in the usability field, including fifty respondents from a popular usability email list, twenty-one employees of a usability consulting firm, and nine usability staff of a Fortune 500 company. The breakdown of the eighty respondents appears in Figure 1.

This can be contrasted with the type distribution of the general population, as shown in Figure 2.

Fig 1,2

If you compare the two distributions, these differences are the most interesting:

Together, the INTJ type and its one-offs represent 69 percent of the usability population. This contrasts sharply with the general population, where they represent only 14 percent.

Together, these findings tell us that some-thing about this type seems to lead to an interest—and perhaps success—in the field.

The INTJ Type

What is it about the INTJ type that makes it associate so closely with usability? Some of the qualities ascribed to INTJs that might

Cliff Anderson is a senior usabili-ty engineer at Wachovia Corporation. With degrees from Duke and Carnegie-Mellon, Cliff has been doing usability work for almost twenty years. He has given talks at UPA conferences and has a regular column, “Thumbnails,” in UPA Voice.

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This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 2, 2006.

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