Small companies should consider outsourcing the facilitation of their usability testing projects. On the surface, it makes sense to have a designer/developer who has a deep understanding of the project be in charge of usability testing, but in fact this can cause serious problems.
A developer will always look at the product you are testing from the inside out. They have internalized the entire product and know it inside and out. They are more likely to ask “leading questions” or bias the evaluation of the data, even subconsciously.
It may be appealing to delegate usability testing to a graphic designer on the project, but this also has issues. Artist’s minds are naturally focused on aesthetics and many usability problems arise from confusing visual elements.
Most importantly, involving your development team in the facilitation of usability tests can cause a conflict of interest. Often problems arise that are difficult to implement. When a developer/designer is involved, the importance of these problems tend to get pushed down the priority list or worse, ignored completely. There is often something “cooler” to work on, or they do not understand just how large the problem actually is.
During review, problems may be dismissed with an excuse: “the product works fine; it’s just not as intuitive as it could be.”
The Ideal Situation
The best solution is to delegate usability testing to someone outside of the development process. In an enterprise, this may mean involving a 3rd party firm that specializes or has the background in UX.
For small companies, I always recommend outsourcing usability testing to a 3rd party who has a genuine interest in the success of the product. This ensures that quality tests are established and the results are unbiased.