Usability tests are quick, easy and a trusted method to measure usability of your solution.
In usability testing, test users perform a series of prepared tasks using a prototype or software, while letting the research team know what they are thinking. Researchers take notes and spot usability issues to fix.
Tests can be done locally or remotely and there are online services that can be used to perform unmoderated tests as well.
In a nutshell
30 – 90 minutes
– Project team
– Pen & paper
– Prototype or software
– Video recorder (e.g. smartphone)
UX Fundamentals (internal training)
Usability testing 101 (article) – Nielsen Norman Group
Why you only need to test with 5 users (article)- Nielsen Norman Group
Qualitative vs. Quantitative UX Research (video) – Nielsen Norman Group
Remote Moderated Usability Tests: How to Do Them (article) – Nielsen Norman Group
Recruit your test users early! It might take two to three weeks to make schedules work with your test users. It’s also a good idea to book 2-3 test rounds right from the start and leave 1-2 weeks between for iterations (depending on the fidelity of your prototype – higher fidelity needs more time for iteration).
You need around 5-8 test users in each round to find ~75-85% of the usability issues. There is no need to test with 20 people at once.
Gather and ready your research team. Do not go alone if not forced to. You need full attention while trying to actively listen and have a good test session.
Assign clear roles. Someone in your team should be responsible for taking notes, others can document audio and video and take photos. Always ask for consent in order to do this.
A maximum of 3 people should join the test. More than that risks making the test person uncomfortable.
Make your test scenarios clear and easy to follow. Write them down and print them so that the test person can see them while doing the test.
Introduce the test setup. Start by making sure that the test person feels comfortable and understands that you are not there to test them but the prototype or software.
Instruct the test person to think aloud and say if they are thinking something or is not sure about something.
Observe. Do not immediately rush in to “save” the user if they are struggling. You want to observe where they have difficulties and why, and if they are able to overcome the situation by themselves.
But of course, if they get really stuck, lead them on to the next phase.
Show gratitude. As a thank you, give the test user a personal gift. Cinema tickets are a good default (two at least).
Have a short recap. Immediately after the session, go through the notes and observations with your research team. You start to forget details quite quickly.
Don’t focus on describing in detail all the things during the session but try to identify the most important/interesting findings and focus on those.
Analyze the findings. Combine all the information from different test sessions to see a full summary of what you found out and present that to the team with instructions for the next iteration.
Send an update. After a month or two, send an update/thank you to the test persons and update them on the progress if there is any. It is important to close the loop so that they don’t feel used.
This is also a good opportunity to ask them if they would like to be contacted again in the future.
- An example of predefined tasks
- A video example of a user completing a task (1 min, English)
- A guide of how to pilot test the test
- A complete pre-test guide for remote usability testing (also applicable to traditional user testing)
- An example of a user test that has been documented for stakeholders