What’s the deal with “user testing?”

While I’m on the subject of language that bothers me, what’s the deal with “user testing?”

People harping about the phrase “user testing” is old news. As far as I can tell, it’s something that a few people care about a lot, and that most people do not even think about. When I hear people outside the game use the phrase, I cringe a little bit; when I hear fellow user experience professionals, particularly experienced ones, use the phrase, it really bothers me.

So, the classic argument: We’re not testing the users. We’re testing the usability of the interface. Or testing whether the user experience fits with what we were designing for. Of course, no one thinks we’re actually testing users, but words matter. How we say things matter. When we have a choice between an easily used ambiguous phrase (“user testing”) and an easily used unambiguous phrase (“usability testing”), let’s go with the one that cannot be mistaken.