Usability Testing

I've been lucky to meet and work with some world-class UX professionals across several companies. If you are a programmer, the absolute most important thing you can do to improve the use and revenue of your product is to do formal usability testing. Below is a usability testing contract, which you should print out and give to each person who you will be testing, review it with them, and sign it. It will explain the process. You typically only need to do a few usability tests with each cycle, as if you are good at this (especially including the duct tape rule etc), you will dramatically improve your software at each iteration. If you get lazy and think you don't have time to do a usability test, your users and revenue will suffer.

In fact, before you have an actual product to test, you can test with online or paper prototypes. Draw a picture of the UI, one screen per page. The pictures do not need to be accurate or pretty, but you do want to get all the wording and layout correct. Ask your user what they would do if they saw this screen, when they "click" a button on it etc, then put that page away and bring up the next "screen".

Usability Testing Contract

  1. Value. Your help in testing our product will make an enormous difference in improving the quality and ease of use of our software. We need and appreciate your help!
  2. Instructions. We will give you separate written instructions detailing exactly what we would like you to achieve during the test today. A typical test should last about one hour.
  3. Quitting. You can quit the test at any time, for any reason!
  4. Location. When possible, we like to do usability testing at your actual work or home office location, so we can observe you in your real surroundings, with typical interruptions (phone calls, colleagues, kids) etc.
  5. Problems. Because we are asking you to help us test a new product, there are likely to be problems with the software which will cause confusion. Such problems are always our fault--- you should never feel bad about becoming confused. It is precisely the observance of those problems that will help us improve our software.
  6. Thinking out loud. During the test, we will need you to "think out loud", constantly be talking about what you are doing, and what you are thinking. We will be taking notes of your comments and questions. If you forget to think out loud, we will remind you during the test. Your thoughts are very important and helpful to us.
  7. Duct tape. In general, we will not be able to help you during the test when you get confused about something in our software, as it is important for test purposes to see what a real user would do when they encounter a problem and we are not there to help them. What things will they try? Will they get frustrated, what will they do? We refer to this rule as the "duct tape" rule, as we need to put virtual duct tape across our mouths to prevent us from our natural instincts which would be to help you at each problem! We do encourage you to ask questions, but we will just write them down and then answer all questions immediately after the test.
  8. Recording. We would like your permission to record this test so that we can show it to any of our core team members who were not able to attend the test, and so we can carefully review any problems encountered to make sure that we improve the software such that those problems will not occur again.
  9. Confidentiality. Because we are asking you to help us test new software which has not been released, we need to let you know that having information about our software becoming available to others (in the press, competitors, etc) could be very harmful to our company. Please do not tell anyone about our software until after it first becomes commercially available.

The developer reviewed the items in this document with me and I understand and accept the conditions of this document.

Signed: __________________________Date: __________
        usability tester - articles - startups - nonprofits - press 25-Jan-2021