Moderating Usability Tests

1st Edition

Principles and Practices for Interacting

Authors: Joseph Dumas Beth Loring
Paperback ISBN: 9780123739339
eBook ISBN: 9780080558271
Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
Published Date: 29th February 2008
Page Count: 208
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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 View 1.6 About the Sidebars in This Book 1.7 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’ Rights 3.3 Rule 3: Remember Your Responsibility to Future Users 3.4 Rule 4: Respect the Participants as Experts, but Remain 3.5 Rule 5: Be Professional, Which Includes Being Genuine

CHAPTER 4 Golden rules 6 through 10 4.1 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 Sharp

CHAPTER 5 Initial contacts 5.1 Recruiting 5.2 When Participants Arrive 5.3 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 Probe 6.4 Providing Encouragement 6.5 Dealing with Failure 6.6 Providing Assistance



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.

Key Features

Presents the ten “golden rules” that maximize every session’s value Offers targeted advice on how to maintain objectivity Discusses the ethical considerations that apply in all usability testing Explains how to reduce the stress that participants often feel Considers the special requirements of remote usability testing Demonstrates good and bad moderating techniques with laboratory videos accessible from the publisher’s companion web site


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.


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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 y

About the Authors

Joseph Dumas Author

Joe Dumas is a recognized expert in usability evaluation. He has 25 years experience as a usability professional. He as moderated or observed others moderate thousands of usability testing sessions and taught numerous students and usability professionals how to moderate. He is the author of A practical guide to usability testing (with Ginny Redish), Designing user interfaces for software, and numerous articles, both for researchers and practitioners. He is currently a Usability Consultant for Oracle Corporation. He was a Senior Human Factors Specialist at Bentley College’s Design and Usability Center and taught graduate courses in the college’s Human Factors in Information Design Master’s Degree program. He has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology.

Affiliations and Expertise

User Experience Consultant

Beth Loring Author