All posts tagged “Usability”

Improving Design With Quick Usability Tests

To see how users behave in a natural environment, it helps to use remote usability software to record the screens and the voices of test participants. This lets you hear them thinking out loud and see every click.

While focus groups and field studies help you understand user opinions and natural product use, remote recorded tests let you see reactions and hear the thoughts of users as they focus on specific tasks. To demonstrate how to run quick usability tests as part of a design process, we ran a few unmoderated tests and redesigned the Yelp website accordingly.

Regardless of the method you choose, just remember that user research is not about writing reports — it’s about asking and answering the right questions and gathering data so that you can make evidence-based decisions in your designs.

Choosing User Demographics

As described in The Guide to Usability Testing, in order to set up your user tests, one of your first steps is determining who the target audience should be for the purpose of the study.

Image Source: The Role of UX Research.

From the perspective of a company with a very large user base (138 million unique monthly visitors, according to Yelp’s Q2 2014 numbers), it is very important for the redesigned website to still be usable by the average current user. Yelp certainly would not want to alienate its existing readers in favor of an improved onboarding experience for first-time users.

So, for this study, we were primarily interested in observing current, semi-frequent Yelp users, rather than brand new users. We also chose not to focus on power users (those who use Yelp every day), because their experience would not be representative of the middle-of-the-road, occasional user.


We chose not to focus on age, gender, income level, or experience using the web since Yelp users come from all backgrounds. Since this study was purely for
qualitative analysis, we did not need statistical significance to validate our findings. We followed industry best practices and ran our study with a total of 5 users (according to Nielsen Norman Group, a sample of 5 users will uncover 85% of a site’s problems).

One of the tasks in our test required users to log in to an account. Since our test participants were not new users, however, we were not interested in testing account creation. We were slightly concerned that users who had an account would be more likely to be power users, so we decided to test with two segments: one with Yelp accounts (3 users), and one without (2 users). For the segment with Yelp accounts, we only selected participants who had been Yelp users for less than 6 months to further eliminate the likelihood that they would be power users.

Lastly, for simplicity’s sake in our design sprint, we only tested Yelp’s website on desktop, not on mobile. If this had been more than an exercise in design, we would have tested the experience on smartphone and tablet as well to make sure we addressed any problems that users encountered on mobile devices.

As shown in the free e-book User Testing & Design, Here are the exact demographic requirements and screener questions that we used:

Test Details: Group 1 (Yelp account holders)

  • User requirements: 3 users
  • Any age, any income level
  • Any gender
  • Any web experience
  • Device: desktop computer
  • Located in U.S.
  • How often do you use Yelp?
    • Every day
    • 3-4x a week
    • 1-2x a week
    • 1-2x a month
    • a few times a year
  • How long have you been using Yelp?
    • Less than 6 months
    • 6 months – 1 year
    • More than a year
  • Do you have a Yelp account?
    • Yes
    • No

Test Details: Group 2 (Not account holders)

  • User requirements: 2 users
  • Any age, any income level
  • Any gender
  • Any web experience
  • Device: desktop computer
  • Located in U.S.
  • How often do you use Yelp?
    • Every day
    • 3-4x a week
    • 1-2x a week
    • 1-2x a month
    • a few times a year
  • How long have you been using Yelp?
    • Less than 6 months
    • 6 months – 1 year
    • More than a year
  • Do you have a Yelp account?
    • Yes
    • No

Determining Test Objectives and Assigning Tasks

Any good research plan should begin with the question, “What are we hoping to learn?

In our case, our objectives were to learn how semi-frequent Yelp users go about completing several very common tasks (to see what features were most important), and at least one not-so-common task (to see if they knew how to use a more advanced feature).

We assigned all users the following common tasks:

  • Focused task — Find a business based on very specific parameters.
  • Open-ended task — Find a business without being given very many guidelines.
  • Highly specific task — Look up a specific location to learn a specific piece of information.

We wanted to learn when both user groups chose to search versus browse, how they interacted with filters, and how they made a decision about which business to go to.

As for the less common tasks, we provided a different task for each user group. Since we had heard several anecdotal complaints from registered Yelp users about Bookmark and Lists features, we asked registered users (Group 1) to complete the less-common task of saving businesses for later reference.

For users without accounts (Group 2), we chose a less-common task that did not require an account: finding an event. We wanted to see if these users would search or browse the site, and how they would make a decision about which event to attend.

Below, you’ll find detailed explanations of the common and less-common tasks that we assigned to each group of users. After each task, we asked test participants if they were able to complete the task successfully and the level of ease or difficulty of completion.

Tasks: Group 1 (Yelp Account Holders):

  1. Imagine you need to reserve a private dining space for a group of 15 people. You are looking for an Italian restaurant with a classy ambiance. Your budget is about $ 20 per person. Try to find a restaurant near you that matches all of these needs.
  2. Imagine your best friend is having a birthday soon, and you’ll be planning a party. Find 10 bars or lounges near where you live that you would be curious to look into later for the party. Save them so that you can easily find them again on Yelp.
  3. Imagine you are driving through Boise, Idaho, and your car starts to make a strange noise right as you’re about to stop for the night. Your passenger recommends 27th St Automotive. Use Yelp to find out if they are open at 8:00 pm on Tuesday.
  4. >Go to the place where you saved the 10 bars for your best friend’s party. Keeping his or her tastes in mind, choose one that would be a good match.

Tasks: Group 2 (Not Account Holders):

  1. Use Yelp to find a new restaurant near you that you haven’t been to yet. Spend no more than 5 minutes looking.
  2. Imagine you need to reserve a private dining space for a group of 15 people. You are looking for an Italian restaurant with a classy ambiance. Your budget is about $ 20 per person. Try to find a restaurant near you that matches all of these needs.
  3. Imagine you are looking for something fun and unique to do in your neighborhood this weekend. Try to find a concert, play, or other event using Yelp.
  4. Imagine you are driving through Boise, Idaho, and your car starts to make a strange noise right as you’re about to stop for the night. Your passenger recommends 27th St Automotive. Find out if they are open at 8:00 pm on Tuesday.

Once we had selected our test participants and written our test questions, we launched the user tests. Our video results came back within about an hour, and we got ready to watch and analyze them within the UserTesting dashboard.

Analyzing Usability Testing Results

To gather qualitative data, we ran a remote usability test with 5 users via UserTesting. To gather quantitative data, we tested ~30 users with a closed card sort (which shows how you can restructure your IA to match people’s thinking processes) and a first-click test (which shows what site element makes the strongest first impression). You can learn more about the quantitative user tasks, but we’ll just summarize the top insights from both tests:

  • The Search bar was the starting point for almost all tasks. It was also the preferred backup option when users weren’t sure how to interact with the site UI (e.g. searching for “Bars” instead of clicking the category). Our redesign definitely needed to prioritize the Search bar.
  • The Events tab wasn’t noticeable. When asked to find an interesting activity, one user went to the Search bar while the other navigated through the Best of Yelp section. If we wanted users to actually interact with the Events feature on Yelp, we would need to make it easier to find.
  • The price categories weren’t clear. When given a budget to find a restaurant, some useres weren’t sure what the dollar signs meant. In our new design, we added price ranges to the symbols.
  • The filters aren’t prioritized correctly. People didn’t use 7 of Yelp’s 47 filters, and the most popular filters that arose in testing (such as “Accepts Credit Cards” and “Open Now”) take several clicks to access. Our redesign reorganizes filters into clusters of 4 for easier access.
  • Photos are a key part of the experience. When asked to find restaurants with a certain ambiance, users relied on photos the most. Our redesign makes Yelp more visual.
  • Bookmarking needs to be simpler. Currently, you can’t just save a restaurant or business straight from the search results — you need to visit each individual page to bookmark them. Our redesign lets you save a business with one click on the search results page.

To see how we incorporated all 7 usability testing insights, you can play with the low fidelity Yelp prototype, and check out the final high-fidelity prototype.

In case you’d like to use these tools to support your design decisions, all 3 companies are running a bundle deal until 12.22.14. Save up to $ 1132 on user-centered design tools.

To learn more about how to incorporate cost-efficient usability testing into your designs, check out the free e-book User Testing & Design. We’ve included 109 pages of screenshots and tips, using the Yelp redesign exercise as an example.

The post Improving Design With Quick Usability Tests appeared first on Speckyboy Web Design Magazine.

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Redesigning Yelp: Design Methods Driven By Usability

You’re reading Redesigning Yelp: Design Methods Driven By Usability, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

Redesigning Yelp: Design Methods Driven By Usability

Jerry Cao is a content strategist at UXPin — the wireframing and prototyping app — where he develops in-app and online content for the wireframing and prototyping platform. For details and visuals of how to incorporate usability testing into design, check out the e-book User Testing & Design. Before you start improving the UX, you […]


Free Ebook: Guide to Usability Testing

The biggest challenge designers and product managers face isn’t how the market or different technologies work — it’s how humans work. What users say versus what users do are two completely different things, and the only way to verify is to test.

The Guide to Usability Testing by UXPin includes 109 pages of tips, tactics, and expert advice.

The Guide to Usability Testing

The free e-book includes:

Free Ebook: Guide to Usability Testing

The biggest challenge designers and product managers face isn’t how the market or different technologies work — it’s how humans work. What users say versus what users do are two completely different things, and the only way to verify is to test.

The Guide to Usability Testing by UXPin includes 109 pages of tips, tactics, and expert advice.

The Guide to Usability Testing

The free e-book includes:

How to Conduct a Usability Heuristic Evaluation

You’re reading How to Conduct a Usability Heuristic Evaluation, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

How to Conduct Usability Heuristic Evaluation?

User experience works best when it’s incorporated into every stage of product development, starting from idea to development and testing. But usually things don’t happen that way and user experience specialists have to face the challenge of optimizing the existing product to become what we call “user friendly.” Well, better late than never. UX optimization […]

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Optimizing the Usability of Online Forms

You’re reading Optimizing the Usability of Online Forms, originally posted on Designmodo. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!

Optimizing the usability of online forms

Forms are the gatekeepers of the internet. They are often filled out as a starting point for one’s journey – such as signing up for an account. They are also filled out in order to get to one’s account – such as login forms. Do you ever wonder that when you compose a tweet or […]

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Why the Flat Design Trend is Hurting Usability

The flat design trend has taken over the graphic design world in a very short amount of time. One of the first big interfaces to go flat was Windows 8. However, it wasn’t until the release of Apple’s…

Click through to read the rest of the story on the Vandelay Design Blog.

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Website Usability Testing: Tips And Tricks From Experts

A website that isn’t usable is just a waste. For high performance, usability of the website plays a pivotal role. For new web designers, web developers, or even the website owners, it’s not easy to check whether a website stands good in terms of usability or not. It’s the job of experts, who know how to test the areas affecting usability and what path to follow for usability testing.

Website Usability Testing: Tips And Tricks From Experts

In this piece of writing, there will be in depth discussion on the things to be considered for usability testing, how to move for that, and what experts say about that. If you are serious to gain knowledge about usability testing, then read this post with care.

Usability Testing: What Areas To Consider?

The first part covers the areas to be considered for usability testing. It’s further divided into 4 sections:

  • Website Accessibility
  • Business Identity
  • Website Navigation
  • Website Content

Now, these 4 sections will be discussed in detail.

I. Website Accessibility

This section includes all the things that could affect the website accessibility by the site visitors. If these things neglected, the usability of a website becomes questionable.

The Load Time: Opt For Reasonable One

With the popularity of broadband internet connections, visitors expect websites to load quickly. They don’t want to wait for longer just to see what’s there on the website. 100KB is acceptable while 60KB is better one.

Text And Background: Make The Right Contrast

If you use all light colors in contrast on background and text, it may make your website elegant, but a burden on visitors’ eyes just to read your website text. Black text on white background is the most acceptable one, though old-fashioned.

Font Size And Spacing: Go For Legibility

People say different things on font sizes to be used on websites, but the most important thing is the readability by the end users. If the font sizes as well as the spacing used in the website content don’t support visitors’ easy readability, more are the chances of high site abandonment rate. Give more white space at the website to avoid making that a mess for the visitors.

Flash And Add-Ons: Use Cautiously

Flash may give your website a stunning look, but it increases the load time, which is disturbing for the site visitors. New technology is good to be used at a website, but limit that to the point when it’s needed the most. Standard HTML and CSS works well to appeal to the search engines.

Website Images: Alt Tags

Alt Tags aren’t just necessary for search engines to understand your website images, but also for the sight-impaired visitors. Don’t ignore this for the imagery used for the menu items.

404 Page: Customize That

Having a simple 404 page may help losing the site visitors. Customize that to guide your site visitors where to go.

II. Website Identity

Anyone coming to your website for the very first time might ask about you and your business identity. There should be answers as well as questions ready for such visitors. The answers of visitors’ initial queries lie in the lines below.

Company Logo: Requires Prominent Placing

A logo is identity of a business, so should be placed prominently at the website. The best place is upper left of a visitor’s screen.

Company Purpose: Use Taglines

While putting your company purpose in taglines, avoid jargons, and express your thing in just few words. It would not only appeal to the end users, but also good for search engine optimization. Make it sure that you are delivering your purpose clearly and there is no ambiguity.

Home Page: Deliver Idea In 5 Seconds’ Read

Website visitors don’t want to spend more time on home page just to get an idea what the business is all about. You have just 5 seconds to impress the visitors and make them browse other pages of your website.

Company Information: Make The Access Clear

Your prospects may want to know more about you. Focus the About Us page and don’t make that boring. Deliver the company information in a clear manner, avoiding any confusion. Make it easy for the users if they want to know about your business.

Contact Info: Make It Clear

If you want visitors to get converted into customers, you need to give them a clear path of contacting you. If a visitor couldn’t contact you with ease, he/she will surely switch to some other relevant website.

III. Website Navigation

After your visitors know more about your business, they need to move to the area of their interest. Here comes the role of smooth navigation in making the website visit a pleasant experience for the prospects. What things to consider for website navigation, particularly for enhanced website usability? Here are mentioned a few.

Main Navi-Menu: Easy To Identify

There is main menu on almost every website that appears on World Wide Web. If the navigation consists of two or above areas, make the distinction clearer.

Navi-Labels: Go For Conciseness

Don’t exaggerate things with fancy words; instead, follow conventions. Like, Contact Us is good enough to reveal you have contact information there instead of using some other long tail phrases.

Buttons, Links: Make The Count Reasonable

Buttons in the menu bar or links to other web pages should be in reasonable limit. Decide about the most needed menu items or you can place them in layers, if the need be. Think about how many pieces of information a visitor can process and pick the buttons and links accordingly.

Company Logo Link: Direct To Home Page

It’s a general perception that a logo is linked to the home page, so it should be like that. If the logo isn’t clickable, it may create confusion for the site visitors.

Website Links: Need Consistency And Easy Identification

To enhance the website usability, the website links should be easy to identify like underlined or blued. There should be consistency in using the links to avoid the content getting disrupted.

Site Search: Make The Content Access Easier

The website search is the most helpful tool to make a website highly usable. Place the search box prominently at your website; upper right corner of the web page is perfect one. Don’t complicate the button with fancy words, simple “Search” will do the magic. For an ecommerce website, you can use search extension to make the task hassle-free for the customers.

IV. Website Content

Content is king, the most common statement given in favor of quality content, enhancing the website usability. Pay attention to present the content in an organized and consistent manner.

Main Content Headings: Make The Description Clearer

Create the headings that are clear, SEO-friendly, and descriptive. Most of the times, visitors don’t read the whole content, but just headings to get an idea of the information presented at a website. This section couldn’t be ignored.

Important Content: Place That Above The Fold

What’s meant by “above the fold”? It’s the bottom line of the web page when seen at first without scrolling. Make it sure that the critically important content is placed above the fold. Know your targeted audience and the screen sizes they are using, then decide about the area that comes as “above the fold”.

Color And Web Styling: Show Consistency

A single attempt to confuse the website visitors with the inconsistency of colors and styles may cause losing them. There should be consistency in the layout as well.

Emphasizing Content: Move Cautiously

Not everything on a website needs emphasis. However, where it’s needed, use that. If you let the visitor pay attention to everything or many things at a time, he/she might not be attentive to anything. So, follow the rule of sparingly emphasizing the content.

Pop-Ups And Ads: Avoid Making Then Disturbing

Although, you need Ads to make your website full of life, but don’t make them overloading your site visitors. If the Ads are important to be placed on your website, make them “clear to understand” for the site visitors.

Web Copy: Make That Descriptive

Avoid using jargon in the web copy and make that explanatory of what you are and what you want to communicate. Use less word count to deliver your thoughts in a concise manner.

Website URLs: Make Them User Friendly And SEO Friendly

Both search engines and end users like URLs to be keyword-based, meaningful, and user friendly. Make then descriptive of what your business is all about.

HTML Page Titles: Make Them Unique And Explanatory

When visitors come at your website, it’s the page title that they see at first. So, don’t make them looking spammy with keyword stuffing. Focus descriptiveness and uniqueness of the HTML page titles.

Tips For Usability Testing

After looking at all the usability areas that need to be considered for testing, it’s time to talk about the tips needed for usability testing. Here are mentioned few points that you should pay attention to while becoming a usability testing professional.

Usability Testing: It Has No Specified Time

There is no right time for website usability testing. You can perform the process at whatever stage your website development is. You will come to know either perfect working of your website or about a possible disaster. Whatever the testing results would be, you can go the right way to correct them.

Test Regularly: Smaller Changes Are Easier To Make

If you keep on testing your website from usability perspective, it will be easier to make small incremental changes, than some bigger ones at some later stage.

Testing Ideas: Share Your Concerns

You might get bombarded by the testing ideas before actually starting the process. It’s good to share the concerns, but make it clear that testing is an on going process and it should be treated like that. Don’t be afraid to make little changes as and when needed as per testing performed by the experts.

Help For Testing: Use Maximum Resources

Everyone might have different experience of the web, so it’s a good approach to get as many views of the people about the website usability. You will come across a variety of issues that users might face and hence find the best solution to enhance the website usability.

Listening To People: Don’t Rely On Every Opinion

There are many people who might give you weird suggestions. They might not have in depth knowledge of the usability aspects. Better to listen to everyone, but don’t rely on each and every opinion coming your way.

Social Media: Use The Power

While hunting for usability testers, social media can offer great help. Go to Facebook and Twitter; you will get better feedback from the actual users of your website, and the opinions would be realistic as well.

Join Communities: Another Approach

Other than social media, you can also join communities over World Wide Web to get help from real time testers. There are many good names, dig out the best ones for you.

Analyzing Results: Implement Improvements

The usability testing isn’t just meant to test the website, but to implement the improvements on the basis of feedback obtained from the testers. Analyze the results of the testing and you will be in a better position to make any tweaks to your website for the purpose of enhanced website usability.

What Experts Say About Usability Testing?

After looking at the website usability checklists, the usability tips, now is the time to go for the experts’ words. Ecommerce experts look into the matter differently. As revenue is the main concern at any ecommerce website, so they take usability testing that way. Here are given some points that ecommerce experts suggest to consider while conducting usability testing for the optimized website performance.

Test For Every Little Change

Many website owners make changes to the design or the functionality of the website, but forget to test that. Experts say every single change at a website should be tested to measure the effectiveness from the end users’ perspective.

Test To Track Revenue

For ecommerce websites, revenue-based testing is the main measure used by the usability experts. The results are also considered in terms of average order per user, increased as a result of testing. So, it’s all about tracking the revenue of ecommerce websites through testing.

Ask About Customer Complaints

While testing, one important thing is to ask the top problems users face at your website. The results will reveal the issues that your website has and you can come to the conclusion how to resolve them and make your website a better place for prospects.

Try Out Real Users For Testing

Instead of asking the contacts, go to the streets and ask real users to perform several tasks on your website in front of you. Ask them relevant questions and inquire about the issues they have to face at your website. It might take time, but the feedback would be realistic for the desired level of website improvement.

Use Other Tools

Picking real time testers is a good approach, but you can couple that with other tools like heat maps, which provides a qualitative assessment of the latest happenings on your website. It tells about the mouse movements of the users, how they scroll, how they click, and many more related things. The results of the tool will help you in better optimizing your website on the basis of a wise hypothesis and well-drafted testing strategy.

Use Extensions

For ecommerce websites, there are lots of extensions available to make the website user friendly. You can pick the ones, suitable for your website, to enhance the user friendliness of your ecommerce store.


Website usability is the most important factor affecting the website performance. Usability testing needs serious attention of the website owners. Neglecting it means propelling the visitors away from a website and depriving a business from the possible profit. Usability testing experts can help in suggesting tweaks for a website so that it could appeal to the visitors and help them becoming the loyal customers of the business. What to consider for usability testing and where to go for that, the lines above have revealed in depth. It’s up to you whether you want to make your website search engine friendly as well as user friendly or make that a disaster by ignoring the usability testing. If you have a small website, and have know-how about usability testing, you can do so on your own, but if the website is a big ecommerce store, you need to hire experts for that. Make it sure that the testing is done by real-time testers and the results help your website becoming a big hit in your particular niche. After all, your website should be a home to the customers, and usability testing revolves around knowing the preferences of the customers.

What you say about this post and what is your opinion about usability testing? Share your words in the comments below!

Happy Testing!

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The Weblog Usability: Points of Concern [Starter’s Guide]

Blogs owners too often ignore key usability points, making it hard for new readers to understand the structure and get the idea across. In this guide you will find out most important points of weblog usability, and you need to start off right now.
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The Art of Guerilla Usability Testing

Guerrilla usability testing is a powerful technique. Designer Martin Belam describes it as “the art of pouncing on lone people in cafes and public spaces, [then] quickly filming them whilst they use a website for a couple of minutes.” Let’s skip the pouncing part and instead focus on its subtleties, including how to obtain and share feedback with our team.

I recently worked on a quickstart project in which my team was asked to build a responsive website in a short amount of time. We were given very little time to code (let alone conduct research) for the endeavor, yet by employing guerilla usability testing along the way we collected feedback on the brand position. Eventually, we aligned our designs to both customer expectations and business goals.

Once a week throughout the project, we tested different kinds of prototypes to bring the business’s ideas to life. For example, while mid-development, we sketched a mobile version of the site on index cards and did a quick assessment. This revealed navigational problems (which guided us to rethink a key point in the customer journey) and even ended up shaping a bit of the brand’s media material. What’s more, guerilla usability testing opened our stakeholders’ eyes so that they challenged their own, innate assumptions about “the user.”

We iterated through our design ideas using lo-fi techniques like paper prototyping. Sketch by Chris Cheshire.

The bottom line? Guerilla usability testing presented itself as an easy-to-perform technique for refining the user experience. It helped us validate (and invalidate) critical assumptions at cheap cost and with rapid speed.

Breaking it down

It’s hard to see the magic that guerrilla usability testing affords and not want in on the action, right? Here are some basic questions to consider before getting started:

  1. What shall we test?
  2. Where will we test?
  3. With whom will we test? and, of course,
  4. How will we test?

What shall we test?

One of the best parts about this kind of testing is that it can be done with almost anything, from concepts drawn on the back of napkins to fully functioning prototypes. Steve Krug recommends testing things earlier than we think we should and I agree – get out of the building as soon as possible.

Test what the product could be so as to shape what the product should be. Even loosely defined UI sketches can be a great way to evaluate a future product. In fact, recent research shows that lower-fidelity prototypes can be more valuable concerning both high and low-level user interactions.

Where do we test?

Where we conduct tests affects how we perform and document our work. For instance, if we’re testing a new mobile app for a retail chain, we might go to the store itself and walk the aisles; if we’re working on “general” office software, we might test it with coworkers in a different part of the office; etc. The point is: let context drive the work.

With whom do we test?

When designing for the mass market, it’s easy enough to ask friendly looking strangers if they have a couple minutes to spare. Public spaces and shopping centers present some of the best places to do this on account of the sheer amount of foot traffic they receive (as well the relaxed nature of the environment). With more specific user sets, however, it’s useful to target subjects based on their context (see above): a mixture of location and behavior.

Coffeeshops are great because you’ll often find test subjects from varying cultural backgrounds and different age ranges.

How do we test?

Testing is fairly straightforward: have participants talk aloud as they perform tasks. Use the think-aloud protocol to test overall product comprehension rather than basic task completion. The key is to watch customers fiddle with a product and silently evaluate its usability. As Sarah Harrison explains, “Observing users is like flossing–people know they’re supposed to do it every day, but they don’t. So just do it. It’s not a big deal.”

Always start with open-ended, non-leading questions like:

  1. What do you make of this?
  2. What would you do here?
  3. How would you do [that]?

By answering these kinds of questions, participants tell a loose story in which they explain how they perceive a product. Along the way, we can generate ideas for how to improve things in the next iteration.

Employing the technique

Guerrilla usability testing is very much about adapting to the situation. That said, here are some helpful hints that I find consistently work in different international contexts:

  1. Beware the implicit bias. While coffeeshops are a great place to find test participants, focusing on people who frequent them introduces bias to our work. Simply acknowledging this implicit bias can help designers neutralise subjective experiences and account for individual differences. Remember to target different genders and be fair in who you approach.
  2. Explain what’s going on. Designers should be honest about who we are, why we’re testing, and what sort of feedback we’re looking to receive. Oftentimes, it’s best to do this with a release form, so that people are fully aware of the implications of their participation – like if it’s going to just be used internally versus shared globally at conferences. These sort of release forms, while tedious to carry around, help establish trust.
  3. Be ethical. Of course, being honest doesn’t mean we need to be fully transparent. Sometimes it’s useful to skip certain information, like if we worked on the product they’re testing. Alternatively, we might tell white lies about the purpose of a study. Just make sure to always tell the truth at the end of each session: trust is essential to successful collaboration.
  4. Make it casual. Lighten up tests by offering cups of coffee and/or meals in exchange for people’s time. Standing in line or ordering with a test subject is a great opportunity to ask questions about their lifestyle and get a better feel for how a test might go.
  5. Be participatory. Break down barriers by getting people involved: ask them to draw – on a napkin or piece of notebook paper, for example – what they might expect to see on the third or fourth screen of a UI flow. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown user interface necessarily, just a rough concept of what’s in their head. You never know what you’ll learn by fostering imagination.
  6. Don’t lead participants. When you sense confusion, ask people what’s going through their head. Open them up by prodding, saying “I don’t know. What do you think?”. People in testing situations often can feel as though they are being tested (as opposed to the product itself), and therefore can start to apologise or shut down.
  7. Keep your eyes peeled. It’s important to encapsulate passing thoughts for later analysis. Ethnographic observation is one good way to capture what you were thinking of during tests. Don’t get too hung up about formalised notes though, most of the time your scribbles will work just fine. It’s about triggering memories, not showing it off at an academic conference.
  8. Capture the feedback. A key part of any testing process is capturing what we’ve learned. While the way in which we do this is definitely a personal choice, there are a few preferred tools available: apps like Silverback or UX Recorder collect screen activity along with a test subject’s facial reaction. Other researchers build their own mobile rigs. The important part to remember here is to use tools that fit your future sharing needs.
  9. Be a timecop. Remember, this isn’t a usability lab with paid users. Be mindful of how much time you spend with test subjects and always remind them that they can leave at any point during the test. The last thing you’d want is a grumpy user skewing your feedback.

Sharing the feedback

Conducting the tests is only half the battle, of course. To deliver compelling and relevant results from guerilla usability tests, designers need to strategically decide how we’ll share our findings with our colleagues.

When analysing and preparing captured feedback, always consider your audience. The best feedback is the kind that understands stakeholders and kickstarts important conversations between them. For example, developers who need to evaluate bugs will have different needs than executives who want to prioritise new features.

Next, when delivering feedback, align it with your audience’s expectations. Try editing clips in iMovie or making slides in PowerPoint. Your co-workers are probably as busy as you, so an edited down “trailer” that highlights relevant results or a bullet-point summary along with powerful quotes is always a good method to keep people listening.

Go guerilla

At the end of the day, guerilla usability testing comes in many forms. There’s no perfection to the art. It is unashamedly and unapologetically impromptu. Consider making up your own approach as you go: learn by doing.

Note: Thanks to Andrew for providing lots of feedback on early drafts of this article.

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