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
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
- 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!
- 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.
- Quitting. You can quit the test at any time, for any
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: __________