Usability Testing Speed Dating
“Terrific event. I’d like to see [Usability Testing Night] offered as a regular event, in order to teach the web community just how vital it is to focus on usability.” –Jen Strickland (member of Boston PHP)
One of Above the Fold’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 is to evangelize UX to the world, and we are off to a great start. Last night, ATF worked with Steve Krug and BostonPHP to offer the first ever Usability Testing Speed Dating, a BostonPHP event to provide a hands on demonstration of how to run and participate in a usability test. ATF would like to offer a huge thank you to Michael Bourque, Steve Krug, and all of the wonderful people who attended the event, making it a great success for usability.
The Set Up
There was a great turnout, with over fifty people coming to the Microsoft Nerd Center on a Tuesday night. Above the Fold’s own Heather O’Neill took care of most of the planning, from coordinating eleven volunteers to prepare their sites to be tested, to arranging an array of high –quality snacks (providing everything from sushi to Girl Scout cookies!) Attendees munched and networked while Steve Krug trained the twenty-two site owners (two per site) in basic usability testing facilitation. When training was complete, the main event – actual, on-the-fly, usability testing -, began.
The First Encounter
Steve Krug, author of Rocket Surgery Made Easy and Don’t Make Me Think, and champion of do-it-yourself usability testing, hosted the event with clarity and alacrity. Before setting sixty new facilitators, participants, and observers loose in the room, Steve offered a testing demonstration to set the stage for the impending tests. Choosing a volunteer from the audience, Steve read a basic facilitator prompt, and led her through two sample scenarios. Throughout this he emphasized, as any good facilitator must, that it was the site being tested, and not the participant.
Next, Heather explained how the “Speed Dating” would work. The eleven sites and their owners were spread out throughout the room. At each site station sat an additional four chairs. The attendees were asked to choose a site, and, based on their “date” card, sit in either the participant chair or one of the observer chairs. As an observer, the attendee’s role was to make a list of the top three usability issues the participant encountered, while the participant walked through the test with the facilitator. When the air horn (a phone app, of course!) blew to mark fifteen minutes, observers and participants alike moved to another table at random, where someone new would become the participant.
Getting the Phone Number (and even a date)
Four air horns later, nearly every attendee had been able to experience three tests as an observer and one as a participant. As could be expected, the debriefing process revealed a huge amount of knowledge gained. As observers, attendees were able to see firsthand how quickly they could pinpoint usability errors and necessary fixes, simply by watching the participant interact with a site. Many shared how applicable this is to their own businesses and sites. As participants, attendees gained a respect and understanding for the pressures their testers might feel. The overall consensus was that any facilitator should first be a tester, in order to empathize with participants’ concerns and needs and thus better facilitate the test. And as facilitators, the results were clear: every single site owner was able to leave the event with a concrete list of constructive feedback, or, in dating terms, a phone number.
The best takeaway of all is that every attendee is now equipped to test in his or her own company. “Once a month” is Steve’s mantra, and if they choose to accept, attendees can now have a usability date with their teams, once a month.
Some reactions have already been shared via Boston PHP’s meetup site:
“BostonPHP outdid itself on this one. Probably the most useful meetup I’ve been to so far… I’m now ready to carry out usability testing myself.” – Emmanuel Paraskakis (software Project Manager and Web app developer)
“Very insightful and very happy that I had the opportunity to see the process firsthand.” –Ken-Tee Chang (graphic/web designer)
“One of the best events I’ve been to in Boston. The meetup was fantastic.” –Stanton Champion (marketing manager)
The event sold out early on, and there have already been several requests to host another testing night or make this a regular event. With this in mind, let us know if you’d be interested in attending the next Usability Testing Night!