Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video Task list logistics, part of UX Foundations: Usability Testing.
- We normally present tasks to participants on a piece of paper for them to read, that way, the participant can refer back to the task if they get confused, and we make sure that every participant gets the same instructions, which keeps the study variables the same between participants. We put each task on it's own piece of paper for a couple of reasons. One is that it prevents participants from reading ahead, and maybe finding a way to do something from clues in subsequent tasks. Also by handing tasks to someone one by one, it stops them from feeling overwhelmed.
If you have a particularly slow participant, they won't leave the session feeling like they failed, because they only got through a couple of tasks. For the same reason it's sensible not to number the tasks, and not to give them labels like Task, or Instructions. A good task should feel like it's setting the scene for someone to carry out an action that they would happily do in their normal lives. It's important to make sure the wording of your tasks is different from the terms used in the products interface. For instance, if you were usability testing Apple's iTunes software, you probably shouldn't have a task to create a playlist.
Instead, this becomes something like: group some songs so you can play them together whenever you want. It sometimes leads to painful phrasing, but it's important not to give participants too many clues in your task that might lead them to the right place in the interface. When this happens, you havn't really learned anything about your users behavior, other than how well they can match words on the task with words on the screen. It's also good to create a version of the task list for your observers to use as a reference.
The observer copy can include the task goals, and the reason for including the task, and it can leave space for the observers to write notes. The task list is central to a good usability study. It's your primary way of communicating with each participant while the study is in progress. Writing good tasks that set the scene, but don't give away critical information is hard, and it's something you'll get better at over time. You'll quickly find out if your task list leads people to the answer, or is overly confusing.
If that ends up being the case, it's OK to get participants back on track, but be sure to change the task wording before your next participant. Once you've come up with good wording for tasks, you can re-use the same task in future studies. Users tasks don't change much over time, they normally want to do the same relatively limited set of things with your software, even if your product features change. Using the same tasks across multiple studies lets you measure improvements in your software. For instance, if the task starts taking less time, or people can complete it with less errors or questions.
- What is usability testing?
- Finding the right participants
- Making a screener
- Asking the right questions
- Avoiding bias
- Making a task list
- Creating the test environment
- Running a pilot study
- Moderating sessions
- Capturing real-time observations
- Analyzing and reporting your results