Moderating Usability Tests

Principles and Practices for Interacting


  • Joseph Dumas, User Experience Consultant
  • Beth Loring

Many aspects of usability testing have been thoroughly studied and documented. This isn’t true, however, of the details of interacting with the test participants who provide the critical usability data. This omission has meant that there have been no training materials and no principles from which new moderators can learn how to interact.Moderating Usability Tests is the place for new and experienced moderators to learn about the rules and practices for interacting that have never been described in one place before. Authors Dumas and Loring draw on their combined 40 years of usability testing experience to develop and present the most effective principles and practices - both practical and ethical --for moderating successful usability tests.To help usability professionals, students, and novices understand these principles, the authors provide videos from their lab that demonstrate good and poor interaction as well as commentary from a panel of testing experts on why certain techniques succeed or fail. The videos are accessible from the publisher’s companion web site.
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Usability professionals and software and web design professionals who run usability studies and do user testing, including human factors engineers, usability practitioners/engineers, technical communication professionals, interaction designers, software developers, quality assurance people, and anyone else who needs to do this work.


Book information

  • Published: February 2008
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-373933-9


Joe and Beth really know their stuff, and they’ve put together a book that’s enormously valuable for usability professionals and usability amateurs. Whether you’ve conducted hundreds of tests or are about to try your first one, you owe it to yourself--and your team...and your test participants--to read this. - Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think Interacting with participants in a calm and neutral manner may well be the most difficult part of doing usability testing. Now you no longer have to worry about how to do that. Just follow Dumas and Loring's wonderful, practical advice and you will be prepared not only for typical encounters, but also for the unusual and unexpected, for doing remote testing, and for working with special populations. Moderating Usability Tests is a great resource for anyone who interacts with usability test participants. - Janice (Ginny) Redish, President, Redish & Associates, Inc. Everyone talks about research methods, but the formal aspects of those methods only get you so far. The difference between getting a little data or a lot of data, only discovering problems or getting ideas about solutions, bias or validity, throw-away data versus generalizable insights, often depend on the soft skills, the ability to effectively moderate testing. In the past, you were expected to get these skills through apprenticeships or trial and error. Moderating Usability Tests: Principles for Interacting with Participants removes the mystery and provides practical advice on how to get the most out of research. It will be invaluable to students learning about usability testing for the first time, people newly charged with evaluating products, and even old hands looking to refine and improve their technique. - Arnold Lund, Director of User Experience, Microsoft You may not think that being a “Gracious Host” is among your assignments in moderating a usability test, but you will learn why this and other roles with similarly illuminating names are important to your success. In this generous book, Dumas and Loring give the benefit of their decades of experience and astute observation of both the foundational and the subtle aspects of conducting usability tests. Many questions you didn't think to ask until you were on the hot seat are answered here, and will help you achieve a level of confidence as a test moderator that may have seemed beyond reach, even if your participants are from challenging-to-test populations. With this highly ethical and thoroughly grounded program for developing moderator skills and avoiding pitfalls, Dumas and Loring make a strong contribution to the body of knowledge on testing products. The big surprise of the book is that their clear, reasoned, and detailed suggestions about interacting with test participants and developers will likely spill over and improve your relationships with co-workers, family, neighbors, and friends. - Elisabeth Bayle, Bayle Collaborations At this point, virtually everyone in the software industry knows what usability testing is. An unfortunate side effect of this awareness is that many people are conducting usability testing who have no idea how to do so in a way that will yield valid, reliable and useful data. Other than the design of the test itself, proper and effective moderation of test sessions is one of the most important - and least understood - aspects of usability testing. Here is a book by two highly regarded experts that covers this topic thoroughly in a very readable format. No one who has not already been well trained should attempt to conduct usability testing without first reading this book cover to cover, and viewing all the excellent videos the authors provide. - Deborah J. Mayhew, Deborah J. Mayhew & Associates

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1 Introduction 1.1 Why This Book?1.2 What Is Usability Testing? 1.3 The Importance of Moderating Skills 1.4 The Golden Rules of Moderating 1.5 Cultural Points of View1.6 About the Sidebars in This Book1.7 About the Videos that Accompany This Book 1.8 About the Companion Web Site CHAPTER 2 Getting started as a test moderator 2.1 What Makes a Great Moderator?2.2 Roles of a Moderator 2.3 Testing Locations 2.4 Test Preparation 2.5 Jump-Starting Your Moderating Skills CHAPTER 3 Golden rules 1 through 5 3.1 Rule 1: Decide How to Interact Based on the Purpose of the Test 3.2 Rule 2: Protect Participants’ Rights3.3 Rule 3: Remember Your Responsibility to Future Users3.4 Rule 4: Respect the Participants as Experts, but Remain3.5 Rule 5: Be Professional, Which Includes Being GenuineCHAPTER 4 Golden rules 6 through 104.1 Rule 6: Let the Participants Speak!4.2 Rule 7: Remember That Your Intuition Can Hurt and Help You 4.3 Rule 8: Be Unbiased 4.4 Rule 9: Don’t Give Away Information Inadvertently 4.5 Rule 10: Watch Yourself to Keep SharpCHAPTER 5 Initial contacts5.1 Recruiting5.2 When Participants Arrive5.3 The Pretest Briefing 5.4 Transitioning to the Tasks CHAPTER 6 Interacting during the session 6.1 Interacting for a Reason 6.2 Keeping Them Talking 6.3 When and How to Probe6.4 Providing Encouragement6.5 Dealing with Failure 6.6 Providing AssistanceCHAPTER 7 Interacting during post-test activities7.1 Maintaining Your Roles 7.2 Determining the Order of Activities 7.3 Clarifying Things That Occurred during the Test 7.4 Administering Ratings and Questionnaires7.5 Asking Open-Ended Questions 7.6 Allowing Others to Interact with Participants 7.7 Final ActivitiesCHAPTER 8 Interacting in a remote test session 8.1 What Is Remote Testing? 8.2 Preparing for the Session 8.3 Interacting during the Session CHAPTER 9 Moderator–participant arrangements 9.1 A Bit of History9.2 Physical Arrangement 9.3 Beliefs about Arrangements 9.4 Choice of Arrangement 9.5 Considerations for the PractitionerCHAPTER 10 Interacting with diverse populations 10.1 General Guidelines 10.2 People with Physical Disabilities10.3 The Elderly 10.4 People Who Have Low Literacy Skills 10.5 Children and Teens 10.6 People From Other CulturesCHAPTER 11 Integrating the videos 11.1 About the Videos11.2 Content of the Videos11.3 The Future of Usability Testing