8 Advice about Usability Testing
When studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Medialogy, usability testing was an important step in each iteration of our projects. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to some of the things I learned doing usability testing. This will not teach you about how to perform an actual usability test, but rather help you to create the best circumstances for your test.
Test your test
Before conducting the test, be sure to test it on a couple of persons. Nothing is worse than noticing an error when you’ve already run through the first test subjects. Instead of focusing on the test results, ask about your skills as test conductor, if they felt uncomfortable, if your questions were understandable, etc. They will most likely find the most crucial errors, and it’ll be a huge help in the real test.
The environment surrounding a usability is crucial for receiving usable results. You want your subjects to feel comfortable, and to focus on nothing else than your product — you want them to feel home. Make sure to find a place with no noise, get a good chair, air out, throw out the trash — create a place you would want to work.
Declaration of consent
A declaration of consent makes sure that you’re actually allowed to use the test results, recorder sound or video, or whatever you write in there. Just like a photographer, you need to collect signatures from your subjects — and remember to do so before running the test.
Ask more questions than you need answered
One of the usability tests we did on campus went terribly wrong. When we were analyzing the results, we found out that we needed to ask some more questions in order to be able to use the results, and we had to do a lot of it all over again. Be sure to ask for age, occupation, etc. — usability testing relies a lot on demographics. Also, be sure to ask the questions in the same tone for every test subject. Your test participants can be swayed just by changing the tone of voice, and you want your test to be credible.
Rehearse and have everything in place
Show that you’re serious about what you’re doing – that you believe in your product. When your test subject arrives, it’s your job to guide them. Take the lead, show them where to sit, but don’t be bossy.
Have extra of everything
You always want to keep extra paper, pens, declaration of consents, batteries, question sheets, etc. It may seem like an obvious advice, but I tried running out of question sheets once, and we had to go print in the middle of the test.
Unless specified in your target group, you can’t be sure that your test participants use the same operating system as you. The best would be to let the test participant use their own computer, but if that’s not the case, at least have both a Mac and a PC to ensure that the OS will not confuse them so much they’ll have a hard time actually taking part in the test. Also, be sure to have a decent mouse.
Students have little or no cash to give for testing, so we often just made a cake and gave the subjects a piece after the test. However, if you work in a company, many people might find it strange that they should volunteer to help you make money. Try to convince your boss to put some money in usability testing — people tend to be more willing to help if they’re paid. Be sure not to buy nice words, stress that you want their whole-hearted opinion.
These are some of the things I have learned in usability testing. I hope you can use the advice — feel free to share your own in the comments.