Usability Testing : what to avoid

For every product when it’s still in the design phase, the reality check happens only when we test it with actual users. Having a usability test with few set of users is a common practice, it helps the team to understand the perspective of the users, how they feel while using the product, and it ensure that the product features and functions are understood by the users.

Chances are that the testing can go completely wrong if we don’t follow certain standards. I want to focus on some of the things which we can avoid while usability testing, here are some of the things which one should not do –

Testing without a protocol

A test protocol contains the flow of how you are going to conduct the test session, from introduction to all the tasks which you want to cover and what specific questions you want to ask while a user is performing a particular task, Testing without a protocol will impact quality of the test because you might end up asking different questions to all the users, and you will not have a common ground to evaluate results on any parameter.

Not breaking the ice

Imagine you are invited for a usability testing, the moment you arrive, the test conductor shows you a screen and asks you “so tell me how would you use it?” Often a person who wants to test, just wants to take the feedback and leave, but its very important to first take the pressure off from the user’s head by asking them few basic things about themselves, it helps them feel relaxed also we get a better understanding with how much they fit with our user personas.

Dont Test the user

This needs to be communicated clearly that the usability testing is for the product, we are not testing the knowledge of the user, hence they don’t have to worry about being right. what ever they say and do is right. Nobody wants to look stupid specially if they are being recorded, so don’t burden them with questions which challenges their knowledge.

Not providing context

Tell the users why the test is being done and what do we want to achieve from it, you will find they will become more supportive once they know that we only want the reflection of their thoughts. Not telling them about the purpose, might make them feel nervous about the whole situation.

Over Expressing

Over expressing about how they are doing that task- Its good if you can just smile, if that’s hard keep it blank, we don’t have to nod the head and make them feel like its right, or making that face that the answer was not correct. Remember when they will actually use that App or website or the tool, you will not be around.

Not taking the qualitative data

Capturing only the quantitative data like how much time users took to perform a task, what labels/words meant to them is not enough. We also need to capture the soft and emotional aspects of experience, like ease of use, first impression, where they are getting confused, avoiding or missing the details, their opinion on the how product make them feel.

Not recording/taking notes

Last but not the least its equally important to record the test if the conditions don’t allow to record it by camera at-least have an audio recording and detailed notes about the feedback. its always helps us to refer back, rather then depending on the memory.

Its important to practice the standard process and not making these mistakes, because the purpose of usability testing is to get the right data which helps us to improve on design and create a better experience


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