Guidelines for usability Testing

Every once in a while, members of your internal or client team will get super-jazzed to sit in on your usability testing sessions. Sometimes they'll even start co-facilitating.

So what’s the problem? Not everyone understands the importance of test protocol like we do as designers. This has happened in several instances that I’ve facilitated, and if you’re a designer reading this, I’m sure you can relate. To prevent this from happening, I’ve found that sending out a “friendly reminder” to first-time attendees can be helpful as a primer to your teams the night before test day.

After all, it’s exciting to get to a place where we can invite real users to give us feedback on the work we’ve done to date. Here’s how to make the most out of usability testing, for both you and whoever is giving you feedback:

1. Remain neutral

Try to keep in mind that all feedback is welcome. As we test users, it’s important to remain open and objective. Also, remember to do your best to avoid validating their decisions or opinions. To do so, where possible, use neutral terms like “okay” instead of “yes” or “right”.

2. Be patient

In some cases, you may experience confusion or even disinterest from the people you’re testing —no worries, use your best judgment to navigate those conversations. If a participant needs to take a break during testing, try to find a way to pause the testing and resume smoothly.

3. More feedback > little feedback

Getting lots of feedback, even if it’s negative or irrelevant, is perfectly fine. You can distill your findings into actionable feedback for the near - and far - future. It’s also important to remember that not all feedback is actionable, and that’s okay.

4. Go with the flow

Some user feedback will cover multiple questions at once, make upcoming questions redundant, or warrant the exploration of impromptu tangents. Follow the path of least resistance in order to yield the greatest value from our time with participants.

5. Beware the power of suggestion

Mitigate bias and avoid influencing participants in ways that may cause them to perform differently than they normally would. Try your best not disclose your preferences or let them know that your concepts are improvements on older versions.

Do ask participants if you can take notes and/or record audio before the session begins. Do not distract the user as you collect their feedback. Having a designated note-taker present allows the moderator to maintain a conversational connection with participants.

7. You can’t test everything

The prototype is a work in progress (WIP) and, as a result, is limited in its functionality. Participant sessions are also intended to be efficient and aligned with the goal of the current round of testing. You can always scale up or down as necessary for future testing.

8. It’s not quite life-size

You aren’t able to test the prototype on the specific screen/device or the variety of screens/devices that the final product will be released on. You should contextualize the prototype for users as we guide them through the test.

And there you have it. A few essential guidelines to follow in order to streamline and maximize your guidelines for usability testing. If you’re interested in reading some other design-related blogs, head over here.