Preparing for user testing requires a surprisingly large amount of planning. Here are the 6 key steps you should go through to get ready.
Identify what aspects of your website you want to evaluate and create a list of around 6 tasks. For each task include the following:
Finally, share your test plan with your clients, stakeholders or project sponsors to check you've covered everything they were hoping to achieve.
Recruitment is one of the most important things to get right. If your participants aren't representative of your target audience then you won't be able to trust your findings. If they turn up late to the user testing sessions or don't show up at all then you'll have to reschedule the testing.
Create a detailed recruitment profile for who you want to take part in the user testing. Your recruiter will need this to make sure they're inviting the right people to take part.
Make sure participants are given accurate and easy to use directions to the venue. Give them a telephone number so that they can call someone if they're running late. Finally, call them the day before the testing to make sure they know what time they're coming and how to get there.
Get as familiar as you can with the website or prototype you'll be testing. The more familiar you are, the smoother the sessions will go.
Book the testing sessions to start 3 or 4 days after the website is scheduled to be ready, if your schedule permits it. Design and development work can sometimes overrun and have knock-on effects on your user testing.
Put a freeze on development of the website while user testing is taking place. You don't want the website to be change while you're testing it or, worse still, to go offline due to a technical issue. Try to have a local copy on the PC you'll be using just in case something else goes wrong e.g. the network connection fails.
Book out user testing facilities well in advance to make sure they'll be available. Set up your equipment the day before.
Try to arrange facilities where you can invite clients or stakeholders to watch the testing from an adjoining room through a one-way mirror. People find watching user testing very interesting and it helps them to build empathy with the websites' users. It's a great way to get people bought into the idea of investing in usability. Also, try to arrange facilities where you'll be able to make video recordings of the sessions which you can refer to later.
If you don't have suitable facilities you can hire them from companies that conduct user testing or market research. Webcredible hires its usability labs in London.
Photo: Webcredible's user testing facilities
You'll have quite a few things to say to participants at the start of a session and it's easy to forget 1 or 2 things. For example, your list might say that you're making a video recording, you want participants to think aloud and that you're not evaluating their performance. Add all such things to your crib sheet and refer to that at the start of each session.
There are other things you'll want to do at the start or end of a session, such as start/end the video recording and delete the browser history (so that someone won't see the previous participant's visited links). Add these to your crib sheet too.
Run a pilot test with a participant or a colleague. Do this in the actual room where you'll be conducting the user testing to check that everything works. Go through everything in your test plan to make sure that the scenarios you've written make sense to someone else and can be completed within the time you have with each participant (typically 1 hour due to average concentration spans).
When you're conducting user testing you want to make sure that nothing will go wrong and that you're clients or stakeholders will be satisfied with what you've done. These 6 steps will help you plan your user testing and make sure that things run smoothly.