Usability Testing Field Notes

Recently one of our teams at Atomic Object worked with a client to do 2 days’ worth of usability testing with real users.

I acted as the test facilitator for this project. As the test facilitator, I greeted test participants when they showed up, explained how the test would work, and walked them through the tasks that we needed them to perform.

The usability testing was a great experience for the team, our client, and our test participants. It provided the product team with many useful data points which led to great improvements in the application.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts I have about what made this round of testing successful, as well as things I want to remember for next time.

  • Our client did a great job of recruiting a diverse group of test participants. We had 8 participants in all, 4 for each of our two primary user personas. The participants were diverse in age, gender, and computer experience. The varied perspectives they represented resulted in lots of candid, useful feedback.
  • We did 4 sessions each day. Each of them was scheduled to be 30 minutes long, with a 20 minute break in between. This scheduling system worked really well. The breaks were just long enough to reset the system, debrief with our team, and have a little downtime before the next session.
  • Snacks, coffee, and water are super important. On our first day of testing I forgot to bring a bottle of water, and by the end of the second test, I was really feeling thirsty. 4 back-to-back sessions is a long time, and there is a lot going on, so remember to stock up. Carl shared some interesting information about the impact that food has on our mental state in this post. While the situation he describes is slightly different, the principles are the same.
  • We rehearsed the test multiple times beforehand, which really helped things go smoothly when it was time for the real deal. For our first rehearsal, we grabbed another Atomic employee who had no knowledge of our project, sat down with him, and had him perform our tasks just like an actual test subject. This was extremely helpful because he was able to point out some easy fixes to the app before our real testers ever saw it. Having this prep out of the way meant that our real participants could give us feedback on more important issues. For our second rehearsal, we sat down in the actual test environment and had one of the stakeholders play the role of the test participant. This was cool for several reasons. It gave us another practice run, this time in the real space (which we had never used before for usability testing), and it also allowed our stakeholder an inside peek into what it was like to be a test participant. As a facilitator, it was just helpful for me to be able to go through the script again before it was time for the real deal.

As a team, we really appreciated the trust our client showed by putting us in touch with his real users and customers, as well as how much work he put into recruiting these test participants. Seeing our application through the eyes of users was an enlightening, exciting experience, and we look forward to the next round of testing with this application.