Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video Usability test formalities, part of UX Foundations: Usability Testing.
- Because your participants will be putting a lot of trust in you, there's a certain level of responsibility that you take on. Even if they're just employees from the office down the hall, participants have given you their time to help you out. The usability study environment, means that you know a lot more about what's going on than they do, and as a result, each participant is relying on you to guide them through the process. Messing up will reflect badly on you and your organization.
It's actually quite easy to do the right thing. Everyone involved in the study must understand that the participant is the most important person in the room. Once you have that concept, everything else falls into place. You need a way to make sure the participants are comfortable. That means treating them like a guest, but also a bit more. Because they're in an unfamiliar environment, you'll have to guide their actions. Offer them refreshments and use of the restroom before you start, and make it clear that they can grab a drink or use the restroom at any point during the session.
Also, tell them up front exactly how long you expect the session to last. That way, they have a good expectation of the timings involved. Time moves very differently when you feel like you're being watched. Participants will be looking to you to take the initiative. They may feel bad asking for something they need so it's up to you to offer it to them before they need it. It's also important to make sure that participants don't feel like they're being evaluated. They really aren't. Each participant is helping you to evaluate the system.
To that end, you need to make sure that your tasks are clear, and that all the observers are quiet and respectful. You need to make sure you don't use words like test and evaluate in conjunction with a participant. For instance, it's okay to say that you want them to work through some tasks, to help you work out how well the system meets their needs, but it's not okay to say that they'll be doing a test to see how well they can use the system. It's also essential that you don't ask participants to do anything they wouldn't do in normal life.
For instance, entering their personal information on a site, paying for things with their own credit card, signing up for offers that might have future costs you're not going to cover, or even going to certain locations on the web that they would feel uncomfortable visiting. Participants should feel that they're contributing something useful. That means that they deserve good attention from the moderator during the study, so that they know their comments are being noted, and their actions are useful to you. However, you should never keep a participant longer than you said the study would take, even if they aren't finished.
It's your fault that you tried to cram too much into the study, not the participant's fault for taking time on their tasks. At the end of the study, participants should be confident that they did a good job of helping you evaluate the system, and they should leave with a reward or gratuity for their time. If participants leave feeling this way, they'll tell other people that they had a good experience working with you. Then, you'll have more willing participants for future studies.
- 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