In extreme cases you can try to run usability testing with test participants and resources you have in hands. Of course, we highly recommend to work with professionals and include user testing into each iteration. But again, any user testing is better than no testing at all.
If you decide to do the usability testing yourself follow these simple rules:
- Don’t involve the same people as test participants more than once. You need a fresh look at the usability during every testing session. It sounds tempting to test product with a certain circle of people who are already open to help, but it is not that efficient.
- Don’t get upset if you haven’t discovered all bugs during one test session. You are not a professional tester and neither are the participants you are testing. After a few test sessions, you will most likely have to get rid of the most visible usability bugs.
- Be patient with test participants. Avoid pressing them with questions. Try to play a therapist role. Ask questions instead of stating the facts. For example, if you are not sure what’s the test participants’ opinion, ask them about their opinion. If they look surprised but say nothing, ask them what has surprised them.
- Make at least some documentation out of test session. Take notes, make audio or video records if it is possible, ask questions
It works because crucial bags are usually easy to spot when taking a fresh look. When you take a look at your work, you might not notice anything irrational about the usability simply because you know exactly how this or other function should work. So, you need somebody else to test it.
The only thing you should pay attention to is not to fall into the temptation of choosing, as test participants, people who are related to the project’s development. They might be biased out of their passion to the product itself, with all its vulnerabilities.
Hallway Usability Testing
To run this kind of user testing you need to show your design to a random person you can meet in the office hallway. The only condition is that this person shouldn’t be involved in your project. Using this method wouldn’t let you test the product on your target audience as it is unlikely that you share the same hallway with them (but who knows). Still, it will help you disclose some major usability bugs and avoid the greatest mishaps.
In case Do-it-yourself usability testing domain knowledge is not that important. Usually, it has a very little to do with usability. Usability is about universal things like navigation, page layout, visual positioning, etc.
You can run the Hallway Usability Testing regardless of the development stage. To get the most of it ask your test participants questions about functionality like “Can you add the item to your wish list and delete it from there?” Simplify even more by asking what do they think this button should be responsible for. If they don’t know or got it wrong, try it again with another person. If you’ve got the same answer from at least five people and it’s negative, give this case a name of scenario and open a bottle of wine. You have just found a usability bug and have a chance to fix it.
You can guess the simplicity of this method out of its name. It helps designers to understand if they have succeeded in visually communicating ideas. It works well when validating landing pages, graphic designs, marketing materials, logos, etc. The idea is simple. Just show your work to the test participants and give them five seconds to have a look at it. Then, take it away and ask what the main idea of what they have just seen was. Their answers will tell you whether you succeeded in translating concepts into visual language or not.
What to do with feedbacks gained during the testing session
There are two the most important outcomes out of each test session: list of the most disturbing usability bugs that were caught by test participants and the list of the most prioritized bugs to be fixed until the next test session.