Instructions for Observers

Usability testing

Usability testing consists of observing people try to use a thing (eg. website, application, tool) with the goal of finding ways to make it easier to use. It is a qualitative approach to user experience testing that consists of:

  • Creating tasks that a participant will attempt to accomplish during the test. The tasks are written to test specific aspects of the product.
  • A facilitator connecting with a participant and asking that person to try to accomplish the tasks while encouraging them to think out loud.
  • Observers watching the test either simultaneously in another room, or afterwards from a recording.
  • A debrief session to compare notes and identify which problems should be fixed. The team can debrief after each test, or after a set of multiple tests.

Before the test

  • Read this guide and familiarize yourself with the usability testing process. Contact the facilitator with any questions or concerns you have.
  • Obtain a copy of the test tasks and the Usability Test Observer Worksheet. The organizer will share these with you.
  • If you are observing the tests live, test the remote connection functionality with the test facilitator ahead of time.

During the test

  • Watch the usability test session as a live screen/audio recording or from a recorded video file.
  • Take notes about anything interesting you notice.
  • At the end of the test, fill out your Usability Test Observer Worksheet with the most serious usability problems you observed in the session. Think about what you observed based on the participant’s interactions with the interface.

Things to watch out for

  • Note when the user was confused or couldn’t complete a task.
  • Where possible, record quotes from users that support your observations.
  • Avoid inferences or stated user opinions that are not supported by observation.
  • Remember that we are testing the product and not the participant!

After the test

  • Meet to debrief and share your observations with the team as soon as possible after testing. The test facilitator will lead a discussion in which you will share the most important problems that you noticed with the group. The goal of the debrief is to identify and prioritize the most serious usability problems to ensure that they are fixed first. There will always be more problems, so we want to focus on the problems that:
    • Prevent users from accomplishing a task or would interfere with the primary functions of the interface.
    • Are experienced by multiple users.
  • If requested, share your Usability Test Observer Worksheet with the facilitator to aid in the writing of a report.

Follow up

After all tests and debriefs in a testing round are complete (usually 3-4 tests), the facilitator will produce a report to communicate the findings with the project team. The project team will work to fix the problems, and further testing will be scheduled as planned/necessary.