How to Effectively Observe a Usability Test

Two Parts:Observing EffectivelyTaking Effective Notes

Usability testing is a technique used in user centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. These tests can be done on a variety of topics, however the most common type is testing website usability. While usability tests can be fun and very helpful if done correctly, they can go poorly if one does not actively observe and take notes on what they see. To be an effective observer, it is important to pay attention to your participants and never to intervene.

Part 1
Observing Effectively

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    Follow your script.
    • Do not deviate from this.
    • Otherwise you run the risk of interjecting your opinion into the test.
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    Watch the body language as the subject interacts with their task.
    • Are they following the instructions word for word?
    • Do they look confused? Are there any hesitations before or after completing a step?
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    Ask the participant to say out loud what they are thinking.
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    • This way, you will have direct quotes from the participant and not just inferences that you (the observer) makes.
    • Direct quotes are more useful than paraphrasing.
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    Encourage questions when the user looks inquisitive or stops thinking aloud.
    • This makes the participant feel like they are there for a reason.
    • It also will make editing your instruction set much easier.
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    Run multiple tests with different people.
    • This may seem obvious, but the more people you have in a test, the more feedback you are going to get.
    • A wide range of experience from your participants, from novices to experts, can help you decide what really needs to be edited.

Part 2
Taking Effective Notes

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    Accurately record the date and time of your observations.
    • In order to verify results it is important to keep detailed dated records.
    • Make sure to separate notes by its finding date.
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    Write down necessary details as soon as you observe them.
    • Maintain written details in groups based upon order of relevancy.
    • If necessary create sub-groups for results and comments
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    Use descriptive words when describing participants actions.
    • Avoid confusing or excessive language.
    • Keep directions brief, so that participants do not become confused.
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    Maintain order within your notes by coding information.
    • This can be achieved through colors or abbreviations.
    • It is important to maintain readability by creating visual order within written notes.
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    Create separate notes for participant feedback and personal reflection.
    • Maintain objective language. Do not write offensive comments within personal reflections.
    • Remember, these notes will be utilized for referencing and comparing results.

Article Info

Categories: Psychology Studies