DIY user testing

I finally got to read Steve Krug’s follow-up to Don’t Make Me Think (about usability basics) and it did not disappoint! The book’s title, Rocket Surgery Made Easy, comes from Krug’s comment in the previous book that user testing isn’t rocket surgery – and that everyone can and should be doing it.

The book is an elegantly simple how-to guide for conducting effective, low-cost, in-house usability testing. It’s so good and, once you read it, seems so obvious. However, if you work on websites or use websites, you know that this type of common sense is anything but common.

Some key points:

Make a schedule. In order for usability testing to become part of your company culture, you need it to become routine. Krug recommends one morning per month.

Test early. Don’t wait until you’ve launched the site/redesign/new feature to test. You can do usability testing on a design you scribbled on a napkin. Think of the development hours you’ll save!

Recruit loosely. Especially if you’re just getting started with usability testing, don’t get hung up on getting the perfect participant profile. Just about anyone will do (so long as it’s not you or anyone else working on the product).

Make it a team effort. In order for the testing to be effective in driving changes to the product and company culture, you need to make it a spectator sport. There’s nothing like watching a real user fumble through your brilliant design to open your mind to it being less than brilliant.

Be smart about fixing. Find the most glaring problems and do the least possible thing to fix them. Tweaking is better than overhauling – and is far more likely to happen. In subsequent tests, you can check if the small fix did the trick.

In addition to overarching themes, Krug offers specific steps on how to conduct tests – from scripts and consent forms to what types of snacks to offer observers. After reading this book, you have everything you need to get started – except buy-in. He has recommendations for getting that, too.

This entry was posted in Company culture, Feedback, Product design, Usability. Bookmark the permalink.

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