February 15, 2015

Usability Testing Needs a Gentle Touch

Conducting a usability test is like running a small business. You need to pay attention to the details and know when to use the right touch to make a sale. Moderating a usability session takes a gently touch. During the test, the moderator has to remember many details. They are responsible for all aspects of administration, including greeting the participant, collecting data, assisting and probing, and debriefing the participant. After the test, the moderator needs to collate the day’s data collection, meet with and debrief other team members, and ensure that the testing is tracking with the test objectives.

During a recent usability test of a major pizza company's website, I was surprised a user was able to place an order but got stuck at critical points in the process. I am always amazed that with a few small tweaks an experience can be improved. During this recent session, I think I did a good job of not leading the user and keeping them comfortable. I think it's because I always review three rules with the participant before I begin the session. I also keep in mind a series of rules during the session to stay on track. Below are the three rules and the ten tips that I will now follow for moderating usability tests.

Three rules to tell participants:
1. We are not testing you, we are testing the product (You won't hurt my feelings tell us what you think)
2. Read out loud.
3. Act like you are doing this from your home/office

Ten tips to keep in mind while moderating usability Tests :
1. Interact based on test purpose
2. Respect participants rights
3. You have responsibility to future users.
4. Participants are experts, but remain in charge.
5. Be professional, which includes being genuine.
6. Let participants speak
7. Your intuition can hurt and help you
8. Be unbiased
9. Don’t give away too much information inadvertently
10. Stay sharp

Do you have any tips to add?

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Marc A. Majers

User experience leader, author, and DJ that is collaborative in each moment to inspire continual learning and positive feelings
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