Usability Testing

October 15, 2017

Whether you only have a prototype or a full-fledged product, it’s highly recommended to run monthly usability tests to make sure that whatever you’re working on is usable and the user experience is excellent.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make your usability tests more structured and organized so that you can learn more from them, this guide is for you. Let’s get started!

First off, always keep the two Golden Rules of Usability Testing in mind:

1. Any testing with anyone is better than no testing (with no one!)
2. A bit of testing earlier is better than a lot of testing later.

In this post, I will introduce you to the kind of light-weight usability testing described in Steve Krug’s books, “Don’t Make Me Think” and “Rocket Surgery Made Easy.” Steve calls this kind of testing “Do-It-Yourself Usability Testing” since it’s supposed to be cheap, easy-to-do and takes just a morning a month.

The straightforward idea behind this is to find a few participants, ask them to come in and go through a list of user flows you want to test, observe the problems they run into, and finally make a list of issues to fix. Sounds simple enough, but very few of us actually do it. The goal of this post is to make you confident enough to run at least one usability test session this month. I ran my first usability test only a year ago, and I must say that it’s actually a lot of fun!

Before we get to the test itself, here are a few things to note:

1. Reserve one morning a month (say the third Thursday every month) for a round of testing, debriefing, and deciding what to fix.
2. Test with three participants each round. Recruit loosely, and grade on a curve — i.e., you don’t need to find someone who fits the exact mold of your ideal user since most usability problems can be uncovered by testing with just about anyone.

Conclusion

We will revisit usability testing in The Sprint Process Day 5: Test and Learn. The process recommended there is practically the same with small variations.