Usability Testing Essentials

Usability Testing Essentials

Ready, Set...Test!

1st Edition - October 22, 2010

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  • Author: Carol Barnum
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123785534

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Usability Testing Essentials provides readers with the tools and techniques needed to begin usability testing or to advance their knowledge in this area. The book begins by presenting the essentials of usability testing, which include focusing on the user and not the product; knowing when to conduct small or large studies; and thinking of usability as hill climbing. It then reviews testing options and places usability testing into the context of a user-centered design (UCD). It goes on to discuss the planning, preparation, and implementation of a usability test. The remaining chapters cover the analysis and reporting of usability test findings, and the unique aspects of international usability testing. This book will be useful to anyone else involved in the development or support of any type of product, such as software or web developers, engineers, interaction designers, information architects, technical communicators, visual or graphic designers, trainers, user-assistance specialists, and instructional technologists.

Key Features

  • Provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to usability testing, a crucial part of every product’s development
  • The fully updated four-color edition now features important usability issues such as international testing, persona creation, remote testing, and accessibility
  • Follow-up to Usability Testing and Research (9780205315192, Longman, 2001), winner of the highest-level award from the Society for Technical Communication


Usability specialists, user experience researchers, usability analysts, information architects, interaction designers, human factors engineers (analyst, specialist, manager), software/web developers, quality assurance personnel, students in industrial design, HCI, information technology, psychology, computer science, technical communication.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword


    About the author

    Image credits and permissions

    Introduction: Getting started guide

    Usability is invisible

    U R usability

    How to use this book

    Special features you can use or skip

    A few words about words

    But wait, there’s more on the companion website

    1 Establishing the essentials

    Focus on the user, not the product

    Start with some essential definitions

    Defining usability

    Defining usability testing

    Know when to conduct small studies

    Know how to conduct small studies

    Define the user profile

    Create task-based scenarios

    Use a think-aloud process

    Make changes and test again

    Know when to conduct large studies

    Think of usability testing as hill climbing

    2 Testing here, there, everywhere

    Testing in a lab offers some benefits

    The bare essentials for testing in a lab

    Other equipment that’s nice to have

    Specialized equipment you might need in certain situations

    Formal labs can cost a lot, or not

    Informal labs can be set up anywhere at very little cost

    Field testing gets you into the world of your users

    Advantages of field testing

    Disadvantages of field testing

    Remote testing extends your reach to your users

    Moderated remote testing is synchronous

    Unmoderated remote testing is asynchronous

    New methods push the envelope on remote testing

    Choosing the right method is a balancing act

    3 Big U and little u usability

    Introducing big U and little u usability

    Using a user-centered design process

    Opening your toolkit and seeing what’s there

    Analysis tools

    Development tools

    Post-release tools

    Choosing heuristic evaluation from the toolkit

    Conducting a heuristic evaluation

    Conducting a formal evaluation

    Conducting an expert review

    Conducting an informal evaluation

    Comparing the results from heuristic evaluation and usability testing

    Putting both methods together: The 1–2 punch

    Cost-justifying usability

    Case Study: Heuristic evaluation of Holiday Inn China website

    4 Understanding users and their goals

    People are goal-oriented

    When people use the web, they bring their experience and expectations

    People expect web objects to be in specific places

    People don’t want to read — they want to act

    Make a good first impression — you might not get a second chance

    Generational differences matter when it comes to the web

    Personas help you get to know your users

    Personas are based on real information about real users

    Personas are a creative activity, but don’t get carried away

    Personas should be a manageable number

    Personas need to be visible

    Scenarios tell the story of your users’ goals

    Start by knowing the difference between a task and a goal

    Tell stories about your personas in a compelling way

    5 Planning for usability testing

    Scheduling the planning meeting

    Establish test goals

    Determine how to test the product

    Agree on user subgroups

    Determine participant incentive

    Draft the screener for recruiting participants

    Create scenarios based on tasks that match test goals

    Determine quantitative and qualitative feedback methods

    Set dates for testing and deliverables

    Writing the test plan

    Writing an informal test plan

    Writing a formal test plan

    Case Study: Test plan for Holiday Inn China website usability study

    6 Preparing for usability testing

    Recruiting participants

    How to do the recruiting yourself

    How to recruit through an agency

    How to plan for no-shows

    Assigning team roles and responsibilities

    Developing team checklists

    Writing the moderator’s script

    Preparing or using other forms

    Preparing a video consent form

    Preparing a special consent form for testing with minors

    Using a non-disclosure agreement

    Preparing an observer form

    Creating questionnaires

    Creating a pre-test questionnaire

    Creating post-task questionnaires

    Creating a post-test questionnaire

    Using standard post-test questionnaires

    Using the SUS

    Using the CSUQ

    Creating or using qualitative feedback methods

    Using product reaction cards

    Ending with an interview

    Testing the test

    Conducting the walkthrough

    Conducting the pilot

    Case Study: Sample test materials for Holiday Inn China website usability study

    7 Conducting a usability test

    Setting up for testing

    Meeting, greeting, briefing

    Meeting and greeting the participant

    Conducting the pre-test briefing

    Preparing the participant to think out loud

    Being an effective and unbiased moderator

    Monitor your body language

    Balance your praise

    Ask “good” questions

    Know how and when to intervene

    Administer post-test feedback mechanisms

    Managing variations on the theme of testing

    Testing with two or more participants

    Testing with two or more moderators

    Testing remotely with a moderator

    Providing help or customer support during testing

    Logging observations

    Handling observers and visitors

    Observers with you and the participant

    Visitors in the executive viewing room

    Remote observers

    Working solo

    Case Study: Session log from Holiday Inn China website usability study

    8 Analyzing the findings

    What did we see?

    Gather input from everyone

    Collect the top fi ndings and surprises

    Choose your organizational method

    What does it mean?

    Determining who should do the analysis

    Collating the findings

    Presenting quantitative data

    Working with statistics

    Analyzing questionnaires

    Using qualitative feedback from the think-aloud process

    Collating responses from the product reaction cards

    What should we do about it?

    Triangulating the data from findings

    Characterizing fi ndings by scope and severity

    Making recommendations

    Case Study: Findings analysis from Holiday Inn China website usability study

    9 Reporting the findings

    Following Aristotle’s advice

    Preparing the message for the medium

    Writing an informal memo report

    Writing a formal report

    Preparing the parts of a formal report

    Writing the executive summary

    Organizing the rest of the report to match your audience needs

    Presenting the findings

    Using tables to summarize the findings

    Illustrating the findings

    Ordering the findings

    Presenting post-task and post-test results

    Presenting survey responses

    Presenting SUS results

    Presenting qualitative responses

    Making recommendations

    Presenting an oral report

    Plan your presentation

    Prepare video clips

    Practice, practice, practice

    Deliver your presentation

    Know how and when to ask for questions

    Advocating for more UCD

    Case Study: Report of Holiday Inn China website usability study

    10 International usability testing

    Learning about your international users

    Some international users are here

    Other international users are “there”

    Understanding cultural differences

    Books to learn more

    Articles to learn more

    Applying the work of Hall and Hofstede to understand international users

    Hall’s concept of high-context and low-context cultures

    Hofstede’s concept of five cultural dimensions

    Planning for international testing

    Where to test

    How to test

    Structuring the test protocol

    Localizing the scenarios

    Localizing the questionnaires

    Scheduling single sessions or co-discovery sessions

    Choosing think-aloud or retrospective recall

    Selecting the moderator

    Anticipating other aspects of international testing

    What if the participant arrives with someone else?

    Should more time be set aside for meeting and greeting?

    Should breaks be longer between sessions?

    Can you interpret nonverbal communication cues?

    Case Study: Analysis of the UPS Costa Rican website



Product details

  • No. of pages: 408
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Morgan Kaufmann 2010
  • Published: October 22, 2010
  • Imprint: Morgan Kaufmann
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123785534

About the Author

Carol Barnum

Carol Barnum
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

Affiliations and Expertise

Director and Co-founder, Usability Center, Southern Polytechnic, Graduate Program Director for MS in Information Design and Communication Program

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