7 Essential Steps for In-Person Usability Testing

Here at SkillPages we like to ensure that all our users have good experiences when using the site. That is why User Experience (UX) is one of those precious arteries which keep the heart of SkillPages ticking nicely.

User Testing
User testing allows us to compare user expectations with their real experiences.

Usability testing is often thought to be time-consuming and expensive and so gets put down the bottom of a long list of tasks – this shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to be the case. Testing can be lengthy and expensive if outsourced, but there are much faster and cheaper options out there which work just as well, if not better! I’m a big fan of Do-It-Yourself testing, not just for its lower costs and efficiency, but because… seeing is believing.

There are many user testing methods to choose from (that’s a post for another day), and all of these will achieve different results. Choose your method wisely and always keep in mind, your end-user and the results you wish to obtain, but most of all, keep it simple!

The following list of steps for in-person usability testing should see you well on your way to implementing or improving the overall user experience of your website/product.

The most important step of all. Don’t put off testing until you think there is something more substantial to test; start testing and do it as early as possible. Even if you only have sketches, wireframes, mock-ups etc., test them. You’ll be surprised by the insights they will reveal, and this will save you time in the long run.

Make a plan for user testing and establish the purpose, goals, and objectives. Make considerations for costs, selecting participants, ethical consent, the test method, user tasks, time-scales, the test environment and how you will analyse the data collected.

3. Recruit
Determine the number of participants to be tested depending on their availability and your resources. Source participants through existing databases, market research groups, colleges, referrals etc., but try to keep it casual and personable. Screen your participants for the requirements you desire and select these, include some least competent users also. Schedule and confirm participants at suitable times.

4. Create Tasks & Scenarios
Keeping your goals in mind, create a brief scenario which describes the situation the tester needs to consider. Write short, direct user tasks and consider the materials needed to carry out the tasks. Make note of what a successful completion of the task should entail and plan task timings.

5. Do a pilot test
As much as it may not seem that important, doing a dry run will highlight any areas overlooked, any problems with the testing, and any issues with the software being used. It will also of course, make you more comfortable with the testing process and your role in it.

6. Conduct the test
Prepare consent forms, non-disclosure agreements, questionnaires etc. well ahead of the test process. On the day of the test, set up the test environment and any software to be used and have it ready before the participant arrives. Try to make the tester feel at ease and brief them on the test process and what they will be required to do before the test begins. Record the test process for later analysis, but always protect the privacy and personal information of your participants. Don’t forget to compensate participants immediately after the test is complete.

7. Communicate Findings
Analyse test data as soon as possible after the test. Identify errors, task completion rates, unusual patterns of behaviour, or other interesting findings. Prioritise problems and highlight these in a test report, but always remember to communicate the positives along with the negatives. Report your overall findings and recommendations to designers and developers and then try to solve the problems found by doing as little as necessary to fix them.

Why didn’t we do this sooner?
What everyone says at some point during the first usability test of their web site.

Posted on November 28, 2011, in Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Steve Krug also recommends http://www.usertesting.com. I use them and find thier service invaluable to see what real website users really think while they use my websites. I am always amazed at what I learn.

  2. I agree with you Jim, usertesting.com is a great resource for remote testing – we use it regularly here and along with in-person testing and testing through screen sharing in a Skype call.

    There’s loads of resources out there, including lots of free options so no excuses for those not testing. A little goes a long way!

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