Usability Testing

Man using his iPad to take picture

This method owes much to Andy Fisher and Chris Keane.

Finding Users

  1. Find 5 suitable candidates. Why only five? That is all you need to find most of the issues you have (Read this if you need more convincing).
  2. Decide if you want to test with new users or people who already use your product.
  3. New users: Decide what kind of user you want for your test and write an ad directed at finding them, and post it on Craigslist (see sample below).
  4. Existing users: query your db for users in your geographic region that meet your criteria. Email 50; the ones who can't make this session can be re-contacted next time you run a study.

Here is a sample post:

Title: "$50 to use our website for 1 hour (Union Square)"
Location: {your city}
Category: et cetera jobs
Copy: Do you {criteria 1 - a factor that defines core user group} at least {x} times in the last {day/week/month}? Do you also {criteria 2}?
If so, we're looking for people to come in and use our website for an hour on {date} so we can understand how real people use our {website/product/feature}. Here are the available times: {list 5 day+hour slots}.
Unfortunately, we're not looking for candidates who work in marketing, advertising, e-commerce, or have participated in market research in the last month, but do tell your friends. [some people do this a lot and you don't want them, trust me]
If you meet the criteria and are interested in participating, please email us with your name, phone number, preferred time slots, and {ask for a short answer about themselves to prove they can spell, read the instructions/follow directions, and aren't crazy}.

You will get 50+ emails in a few hours. Email the people and ask a follow up question. If they seem sane, put their name and time in your calendar with email/phone number. If they seem shady, skip to the next applicant or call them.

The Testing

Some people write out their questions to make sure they ask everything, which is sensible when you know what you're looking for. I tend to list the things I want to test and see where the session takes me.

Give them tasks to do:

Here is a good general guide: Introduction to Usability