Sunday, August 27, 2006

Usability Test Facilitation Techniques

A great usability test facilitator does more than just show up on the day of the test, they spend some time making sure they understand the product, objectives of the business and concerns from the project team. A great facilitator participates in the test planning process so they understand and help define the learning objectives for the test session.

There are many test methods to choose from, but I really like, especially for low-fidelity or limited functionality prototypes is the interview guided task protocol. In this method, a task list is prepared in advance with usability objectives defined for each task. But the session starts with a conversation with the participant to understand how they currently use the product and in which situations. Then we have them do the pre-prepared tasks they identified that they perform during the interview, plus any other tasks the participant identified that we, the project team had not identified during the planning phase. BONUS - more user and task analysis input at a usability testing session.

I have observed and coached many great facilitators. Some of these tips may seem so basic, but you wouldn't believe how often I need to remind myself of these during the course of a test day, especially on the last day.......

Greet and Set at Ease
  • Set the participant at ease, by making friendly conversation, smile :)

  • Remind the participant that they are not being tested, the product is, anytime they seem to be getting frustrated

  • Interview
  • Use eye contact and share information about yourself

  • Start your interview questions with the least personal to most personal, you need to earn their trust

  • Task Testing
  • Let the participant know that you won't answer their questions, but you would still like them to ask them out loud and be prepared to answer them at the end of the test session

  • Position yourself out of the line of site when transitioning to the task portion of the test session

  • Never lead the participant, be very careful of any words or body language you use

  • Save all of your questions until the end, but bring the participant back to areas you have questions about

  • Probe only at the end of the test session, not after each task

  • Avoid "training" the user, unless the project team feels compelled to, then only after the post testing questionnaire is complete
  • Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Resist Clutter and Digital imagery that pops

    I, like so many people, receive way too many interesting email newsletters, magazines and professional journals. I do try to scan as many as possible and read at least one article of interest. If I scan and don't find one of interest or the day is just to0 hectic, I toss. I will be getting another edition in a couple of weeks anyways and if I didn't toss it, the clutter in my house would be too much. I have also learned that once I file a digital newsletter in my computer, I will never have time to look at it again.

    This being said, I do want to share an article from one of my favorite digital design newsletters, SitePoint Design View, about creating better digital images in Photoshop. I had never heard about HDR, so this was eye opening to me.