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The best feedback comes from comfortable test participants

Here’s how our team gets the most out of our usability testing!

by Tabitha Foster, UX Designer

Person working on computer

Image Courtesy of Unsplash

Usability testing is an integral part of your product design journey. This important step is followed by the sometimes daunting task of writing a usability report. A usability report allows you to share your findings from your testing sessions with everyone involved in the project. This report is what your team will study to decide what issues need to be tackled next and how to plan future sprints around solving these issues. This is why having a well-written report is crucial. If your report sucks, no one will want to read it and those who do will have a tough time understanding the results you’re trying to explain. At Thinking Big, we believe these steps are easy ways for you to improve the feedback you get from testing, your usability reports and in turn, your product development!

Start with a good test plan that covers all your bases

What part of your product are you testing? What kind of results are you looking for? Is there already an outstanding issue that you’re looking to confirm? Do you know why you’re testing? These things need to be outlined and explained in a testing plan, to ensure you stay on track throughout your testing sessions. This will ensure your usability report makes sense to your team.

In our usability test plan, we cover:

  • Background & goals — This summarizes what the team is looking to achieve through these testing sessions.
  • What we want to confirm & who is the product for — This type of information is helpful to share with stakeholders and the team to reiterate why you are testing what you are.
  • Roles — A helpful reminder to whoever oversees the plan, who is responsible for what during the testing. This is also where you would outline the specific scenarios or tasks you will be having your participants carry out.
  • What to observe — These are questions or concerns your team has already going into the testing that you’re hoping get answered without directly asking your users/participants.
  • Usability heuristics — Depending on who is reading your test plan, they may be unfamiliar with the heuristics of usability that you’ll be using to base your testing off of.

Be a good facilitator and make your participant feel comfortable

“You want the participant to feel comfortable that they understand what you’re asking of them, and that they can share their thoughts on any part of it, and know that strong criticism is welcome!”

The usability report is supposed to be a reflection of how the users felt while using your product which makes how you facilitate a test so important. A good plan as mentioned above, is the starting point to setting your testing sessions up for success but it doesn’t end there. You need to ensure that your users feel comfortable and confident to think out loud during the test.

You do this by:

  • Being patient — As the facilitator, you have to learn to expect the unexpected. Your user won’t necessarily take the path you expect them to take and you have to be patient as they troubleshoot and navigate the task or scenario given to them, however they do so.
  • Inquiring without leading — This is key to ensuring you get accurate and authentic feedback from your users. Your user has to think for themselves, and out loud at that. For example, when a user asks “Should I click here?” flip the question back on them by saying “What do you think?”; this will help the user remember to think out loud and go through the process how they would normally.
  • Always listening— It’s important to listen to an user, even as they mumble and say things ‘in passing’. Even body language and facial expressions can help you determine how the user is feeling going through the specific task at hand.

Have a note taker present

During a testing session, it’s very common to have a note taker at your testing session. A note taker’s role is to record what is happening during a test and anything that the participant says or does as they silently observe the session. They’re a great asset to have during your session, as there can be things an user may say or do that you completely miss as the facilitator. Another great tool for note taking is recording your testing sessions. This allows you to go back and re-watch the session and make note of things you missed as well as share them with members of your team. Everyone interprets things differently and allowing your team to see the sessions for themselves will provide different interpretations of the results from your tests.

In conclusion

Writing a good usability report really depends on how you set up and perform your usability tests. With these three tips and a lot of practice, we’ve found that our reports have improved. This has made it so much easier for us to come together as a team to review test findings and determine a game plan on how to improve our product based on those results. It’s also made the process of actually writing the report so much easier because of having a solid plan to look back on and compare our results with.

Still unsure about writing an usability report and running usability tests? We can help! At Thinking Big we love helping teams and businesses succeed and improve their products. We provide tools and consulting services that inspire our customers, extends their capabilities, and advances their enterprises. Start the conversation with us by emailing