Usability Testing. What For?

Know what questions you want answered before performing usability testing.

You need to do some usability testing? What for?

No, no. I don’t mean why do it — there are a bazillion articles out there that list a gazzillion reasons to do usability testing.  I mean what are you looking for?

Are you interested in:

  • How well the design fits people’s mental model for the task?
  • How easily people can complete the task or use the design?
  • How valuable they find the feature?
  • If you are missing something people think is a must have?

If you think about what questions you want answered before testing starts, you’re more likely to get the answers you need.

Dana Chisnell, one of the authors of the Handbook of Usability Testing, has a great blog post; Popping the big question(s). How Well? How Easily? How Valuable? that lists several great questions for design teams to think about before usability testing.  Take a look. It’s a good place to start.

Once you have the short list of questions you want answered, the next steps are to prepare tasks that will help you answer those questions AND to prepare some possible probes around these questions that you can ask participants as they perform your tasks.

Let’s say you want to know if your design supports people’s view of the company or product brand.  During the initial “get-to-know-you” interview you might ask the participants some questions about their perception of the brand, so you know what they think before you start. Then, while they perform tasks during the testing, ask some questions to see if their perceptions match. And at the end, you might ask if what they saw has had any influence on their perception of the brand.

So if they say during the interview that they think of your company as young, funky and affordable, and then when you ask for their impression of the site’s home page they say it’s dull, and looks like somewhere their parent’s would shop — you know where one of your problems is.

My point is simple. Like with everything else, you’ll get more out of your usability testing if you go into in knowing what you want to learn about.   Do your prep work.

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