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Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set ...Test!

Book Companion

Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set ...Test!

Edition 2

Welcome to the companion website for Usability Testing Essentials, 2nd edition

This new edition provides the same comprehensive coverage as the first edition, but updates every chapter to reflect changes in tools, technology, and support for usability testing.  The approach to testing, however, remains grounded in the same practical steps to learn the entire process of planning and conducting a usability test, analyzing the findings, and reporting the results.

This companion website site is also updated to provide support for planning and preparing for testing and writing and presenting reports.

Throughout the site you will find:

  • The table of contents

  • A sample chapter.

  • Downloadable forms and checklists for preparing for testing

  • Complete reports from examples in the book and other reports from a variety of studies, including heuristic evaluations

  • Reports with embedded video clips and video reports of study findings

For instructorsopens in new tab/window, you will find additional materials for your classroom, including:

  • A sample syllabus and sample assignments

  • An instructor's guide

  • Questions and topics for discussion

  • Exercises for classroom or homework use

  • Activities for developing a usability testing project

  • Image Bank PDF

  • Image Bank PPT

Forms and Checklists

You’ve seen the forms and checklists in Chapter 6 in the book. You can download these editable Word documents to use in your own usability tests. Or download all the forms and checklists using the link to the zip file which are given above.

Buy Now!

“This is the most comprehensive resource I’ve ever seen on this topic—significantly more detailed than any other book. I could see a market not only in academia, but also in companies that want to implement usability testing but don’t know how.”

--Janet Taylor, UX Director

“Transitioning from academic research into UX research was a challenge. There’s an overwhelming amount of UX resources, guides, and standards. It’s hard to know which to follow. Dr. Barnum’s decades of experience is evident in her book and teachings. Her book, Usability Testing Essentials, provided the structure and foundation I needed to feel confident and do exceptional work. With her additional mentorship, I was able to see direct results of her teachings within three months and >90% of the recommendations I’ve made from my research findings have been completed. I’ve got my colleagues at work moving from saying “What is that?” to “We need Yi-Min on this!” As a lone UX researcher, my company is recognizing the value of my work, and teams are advocating for more UX researchers to join alongside me. This book is a necessity, especially for those starting out in UX Research.”

--Yi-Min (Minja) Chun, UX Researcher, Doximity

"My friend and I wanted to sharpen our UX research skills to grow our careers and profession, but we were overwhelmed with all the UX resources and guides online. It was hard to discern what was real and counterfeit content. So we looked for a coach instead. In the end, after a set of informal interviews with UX authors and experts from both Canada and the U.S., we picked Dr. Barnum as our coach. Her book, Usability Testing Essentials, 2nd edition, was our compass and our guide. Dr. Barnum's UX and usability knowledge is rare, matched equally by her instincts and intuition about human nature. These pearls of wisdom are best found in the newest edition of her book. Grab the book! Treat it as your guide, and you will glean wisdom!"

--Nii Codjoe, UX Practitioner

Review by Janet Taylor : From Australian Society for Technical Communication. in new tab/window

Usability Testing Essentials by Carol Barnum

Book review by Janet Taylor.

​If you need to test but don't know where to start, you need to read this book! The initial review, from 2015, featured the first edition of this book. It now includes the updates for the second edition.

​Like most technical communicators, I really wish that I could speak to some of my readers, to get to know what they expect of the documentation I produce and how useful my efforts are to them. The best I can achieve as the reader’s advocate is from our developers: “our customers expect it to be complicated/would understand what we mean”. I’d like to respond “rubbish!” but I simply have nothing to back it up.

So I jumped at the sight of Carol Barnum’s book about usability testing. Testing with small samples was the drawcard for me. And the book delivers. The only drawback is that you have to put in effort to test, whether it’s a small sample of people or large. To help you along Carol has included a large number of questions you can ask yourself (and your testers) so half the effort is done for you. In fact, the book is full of lists, such as:

  • Goal setting using the 5Es: Efficient, Effective, Engaging, Error tolerant, Easy to learn.

  • Planning Meeting Agenda.

  • Post-test Questionnaire.

  • How to write simple 3-point severity rating report of the findings. In fact, there’s two chapters devoted to reporting the findings.

This is a magnificent book, and covers every conceivable type of manual testing ranging from small groups, large groups, international groups, groups in a lab/not in a lab, remote groups, testing run by someone else using your test plan and so on. I cannot think of any facet of testing that isn’t included in this comprehensive book.

Most of the test examples are of web sites, but that is easiest to give examples of. And they are all interesting, even the responses.  As soon as a thought such “what about this other way?” popped into my head, it was answered in the next paragraph. Uncanny. Each chapter starts with a summary of the contents, then at the end there is another summary of what has been covered. But there is nothing repetitive about either section.  I don't normally include a list of chapters in book reviews, but I was going to do so for this one, and, you've guessed it, it's already included. So here's a reduced version of the contents:

1. Establishing the essentials just does that. One of the essentials is to define a vocabulary you can use. 2. Testing, here, there and everywhere looks at your testing options. All your conceivable testing options.  3. Exploring the usability and UX toolkit puts usability testing into the context of user centred design. This chapter gives an overview of the variety of techniques that you can use. 4. Understanding users and their goals starts the pre-planning process.

5 to 7 is Planning, Preparing, and Conducting testing. This is the bulk of the book and it is best used when you read all the other chapters.  8. What to do with all those findings? and 9, Reporting the findings are full of helpful advice about how to report your findings, and describes the various scenarios in which that might happen. It also is a guideline in how to manoeuvre your own report result scenario. 10. International usability testing focuses on the unique aspects of international usability testing included advice about learning about the culture in which you will be testing. Carol has included some unexpected differences between some cultures and our own.

My personal note

This is one of the best non-fiction books I‘ve ever read (and it’s had some stiff competition). It was an absolute pleasure to read. It also included an acceptable replacement for ‘heuristic’, a word that I hate. ‘List of checks’ was used instead for a list of items to consider for usability. As expected, the list is included the book. Note that although I have used capitals in copying from the book, most of the headings are free of the capitals that can be so irritating in books by US-based authors.  There are an enormous number of references to free resources to further your knowledge.

Specific changes in the 2nd edition

This new edition provides the same comprehensive coverage as the first edition, but every chapter is updated to reflect advances in tools, technology, and support for usability testing. The approach to testing, however, remains grounded in the same practical steps that cover the entire process of planning and conducting a usability test, analysing the findings, and reporting the results. Filled with new examples and case studies, Usability Testing Essentials, 2nd Edition is completely updated to reflect the latest approaches, tools and techniques needed to begin usability testing or to advance in this area.

Other changes in the 2nd edition edition:

  • A shift away from a specific view of usability testing to include the concept of user experience (UX). To reflect this shift, early chapters have been reorganized, and Chapter 2 has been given a new name to introduce the UX toolkit early and to place usability testing within it.

  • A change from a single case study as the main example at the end of each chapter to a variety of shorter, embedded examples covering websites, software, mobile devices, apps, and more.

  • A refresh of the resources and references to reflect current thinking.

  • An update of the tools and techniques to reflect online tools available in current practice.

  • A revamp and expansion of checklists to reflect preparation for remote testing and doing the work with smaller teams of one or two researchers. (This is also available on the companion website.)

  • An update of the discussion and examples of reports for many contexts, including presentation-style reports.

Given all these changes, it’s important to note that the basic methods for planning, preparing, conducting, analysing, and reporting the results of usability testing remain unchanged.  The core principles remain strong.

Carol M. Barnum, PhD, became a usability advocate in the early 1990s. It happened when she heard the word “usability” at a Society for Technical Communication conference. Technical communicators have always seen themselves as the user’s advocate, but here was an emerging discipline that championed the cause of the user!

It was love at first sight.

In 1993, Carol attended the second Usability Professionals Association Conference, where she was thrilled to mix and mingle with several hundred usability folks on Microsoft’s corporate campus. Those two conferences sparked a desire to combine her love of teaching students how to be clear communicators with a new-found passion for helping companies understand how to promote good communication between their product and their users.

In 1994, Carol opened her first usability lab in a windowless basement location at Kennesaw State University (formerly Southern Polytechnic State University). Throughout her teaching career, she built several more labs, developed a course in usability testing, developed a graduate program in Information Design and Communication, and worked with numerous clients to help them unlock the users’ experience with software, hardware, documentation and training products, mobile devices, web applications, websites, apps, and more.

Not one to retire, she left her teaching career in 2013 at the rank of Professor Emeritus to become a fulltime UX consultant, trainer, and speaker. She has traveled the world speaking at conferences and training UX practitioners and students. Recognition for her speaking includes the Presentation Prize at the first European Usability Professionals Association Conference and top ratings at UXPA, STC, and IEEE’s Professional Communication conferences.

Carol is the author of five other books and more than 50 articles and book chapters covering a variety of topics, including the state of UX research, UX reporting styles, the impact of Agile on usability testing, the “Magic Number 5” and whether it is enough for web testing, using Microsoft’s product reaction cards for insights into the desirability factor in user experience, storytelling for user experience, and issues affecting international/intercultural communication and design.

Carol’s work has brought recognition from the Society for Technical Communication, including the designation of Fellow, the Rainey Award for Research, and the Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication. She also received the Blicq Award for Distinction in Technical Communication Education from the IEEE Professional Communication Society.

Above all else, Carol continues to love helping others improve user experience in all aspects of their life.

To keep up with Carol’s activities or contact her with a question, visit her website at https://www.carolbarnum.comopens in new tab/window


Here you will find reports from examples included in the book, plus other reports from a variety of studies. These reports include heuristic evaluations, usability test plans and usability testing reports, personas, PowerPoint presentations with embedded clips, and standalone video reports. You will also find reports focusing on cultural aspects of website design.

You can download all reports from one zip file.

China Holiday Inn website

Heuristic Evaluation Report:opens in new tab/window Holiday Inn China Websiteopens in new tab/window

Holiday Inn China Website Test Planopens in new tab/window

Holiday Inn China Website Usability Study Final Reportopens in new tab/window

Video Highlights for China Holiday Inn Websiteopens in new tab/window

Engineering for Change website

iUG persona Rajitopens in new tab/window

iUG persona Michaelopens in new tab/window

iUG persona memoopens in new tab/window

iUG HE reportopens in new tab/window

iUG test planopens in new tab/window

iUG final reportopens in new tab/window

iUG_Presentationopens in new tab/window*

Hufflepuff persona Elsie Manningopens in new tab/window

Hufflepuff persona Chris Bakeropens in new tab/window

Hufflepuff persona memoopens in new tab/window

Hufflepuff HE reportopens in new tab/window

Hufflepuff Test Planopens in new tab/window

Hufflepuff Final Reportopens in new tab/window

Hufflepuff_Presentationopens in new tab/window*

*To properly download the Hufflepuff and iUG presentations with embedded clips, please save the zip to your desktop. Once saved, extract the files. Once extracted, go into the folder and run "pptview.exe".

Better World Books website

BWB test planopens in new tab/window

BWB heuristic reportopens in new tab/window (document style)

BWB heuristic reportopens in new tab/window (presentation style)

BWB PowerPoint presentation with videoopens in new tab/window

Online Graduate Programs website

Online grad programs usability test planopens in new tab/window

Online grad programs usability test reportopens in new tab/window

Online grad programs presentation slides with notesopens in new tab/window

Other Reports

Library Usability Group Final Reportopens in new tab/window

Southern Artistry Usability Test Reportopens in new tab/window

Southern Artistry PowerPoint Presentation with embedded clipsopens in new tab/window*

Mealpay Plus Test Planopens in new tab/window

Mealpay Enterprises Heuristic Evaluationopens in new tab/window

Mealpay Persona for Johnopens in new tab/window

Mealpay Persona for Sharonopens in new tab/window

Oxfordshire Gateway Expert Review Reportopens in new tab/window

One Culture's Impact on Design opens in new tab/window(Redesigning the Costa Rica UPS website)

Going Local in India opens in new tab/window(AMEKS Infotech Site Redesign)

* To properly download the Southern Artistry PowerPoint Presentation with embedded clips please save the zip to your desktop. Once saved, extract the files. Once extracted, go into the folder and run "pptview.exe"

Download All Reports and Case Studies

All Reports and Case Studies (zip)opens in new tab/window

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