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Hallway usability testing is a technique and a principle in usability testing wherein random individuals are used to test software products and interfaces. This is in contrast to choosing individuals based on particular skills they may have.
The idea behind hallway usability testing began as an alternative to hiring trained or certified personnel to test a particular software or technology product. The idea is that you can go out and grab random individuals passing by an office in a hallway and get them to test a product being developed. Another way to think of it is that random individuals are gathered from the street and then assembled in the hallway before having them test a product under development.
Some experts believe that using hallway usability testing can reveal up to 95% of usability problems with a given interface or product. In some ways, the principle of hallway usability testing is similar to the old idea of "putting 1000 monkeys at 1000 typewriters" — there is the commonly acknowledged suggestion that, by doing this, companies can effectively test systems without investing in a core group of certified testers or other users whose skillset or experience may be expensive. In a lot of ways, hallway usability testing is like developing a beta testing phase, where the product or interface is constrained to a random sample group before it is released to the public.