Creating a Usability Test Plan

Creating a website usability test plan isn’t a difficult task, but many people think that it is a very complex and scientific process. It is simply a technique that anyone can quickly learn with proper training and consistent practice. Basically, at its core, this test involves putting an individual in front of a product or service and then watching what exactly they do. The main goal here is to observe how better users meet their requirements with a product or service. Once you learn all the principles of conducting these tests, you find that creating your website usability testing is actually a straightforward process.

If you are planning to bring your usability testing in-house, it is an ideal thing to take enough of time to prepare accordingly for your very first study you are doing on your website.

Creating a Usability Test Plan 

Step I: Writing a Usability Test Plan

At the beginning of your usability testing project, it is important to meet with your organization’s stakeholders, design team and engineers to identify what they are hoping to learn from that usability test. Therefore, it is essential for everyone who has an influence on design decisions present at the planning meeting. This is to ensure everyone is on the same page with you and ensures you would not have any surprises in the future, especially when the online company’s stakeholders are present during the test sessions in one way or another.

Typically, allow around two hours to your planning meeting and start by discussing an overview of the usability testing process to ensure every person is following and well informed. Also, this gives your team a chance to ask any relevant question they want to be clarified concerning usability study. After giving an overview, work to define the objective of the test and then outline all the research questions you would like to answer. It will not possible to evaluate all issues and concerns in just a single usability test plan, especially if you are dealing with large and complex products.

Because of that, ask your design team and stakeholders what they think their biggest concerns, issues and risks are with the product or service. You can also ask your team of professionals what features of the product they know vividly know about and how customers will interact with them. After receiving their responses, then you have a better sense of where exactly to focus your usability study.

Based on what you study, and then write a usability test study outlining the goal of the methodology, the tests and the research questions. This test plan eventually becomes the blueprint for the test you will conduct. It can be an informal or formal document, but generally includes the following:

  • Goals of the study
  • Researched issues and questions
  • The target audience description and user behaviors you will recruit for
  • Test method
  • Project timeline and schedule
  •  Tasks you will ask users to complete and data you will collect.

Step II: Recruiting Users

When creating your first usability test, you will want to find the right people who will be representative of your actual target audience. In this case, you have basically two options: with an in-house recruitment, you can physically assign one of your team members to find users, or you can simply outsource the services of finding the right users to a reputable recruitment company or agency. You can as well use both approaches provided they work for your company.

When planning to recruit the right participants for such study, several teams usually start by focusing particularly on demographics such as ethnicity, age or gender. Unluckily, recruiting for demographics turn out to be one of the less effective methods of finding the most appropriate people for your usability test.

For instance, if you are recruiting for a study of online video game, you will think of boys in the age range of between 13 and 24. However, if you only recruit for that particular demographic, you may mistakenly recruit teenagers who do not actually play such games. In addition, several women also prefer playing video games. This means that you are likely to miss their feedback if you only consider recruiting the boys. Therefore, for any recruitment project you do, ask your client to explain the key behaviors of the audience, the level of tool knowledge and domain knowledge users need.

When looking for users, a great point to start is to ask potential clients whether they have a database with prospects and existing users. Once you have found a few potential recruits it is important to screen them by phone call before inviting them into your lab where you are conducting a usability test. To help with the process, you can create a screener to disqualify or qualify potential online users. A screener is simply a script which helps the recruiter to apply the requirements you are seeking in users.

Step III: Creating Tasks

The tasks you design for a usability test study on your website are very essential and important for collecting the right data. These tasks determine what you will test and what sections of the design fixed by your team are affected. If you provide your internet users with wrong tasks, you definitely risk focusing on the wrong sections of the design. Still worse, you may give your design team misleading recommendations. When creating your tasks for a usability test plan, start by answering the following questions:

  • What exactly are the users’ goals with the service or product you are offering online? In this case, outline specific actions that users usually complete with the product.
  • What are the business goals? Come up with various methods your website of product will reduce organizational costs and increase revenue. The best tasks mainly focus on parts of the design important to your company’s business goals.
  • What are the design’s greatest risks? If there are specific parts of the design where you lack enough knowledge and experience as how users actually interact with it, then it comes one of the areas to address in the tasks you create.

Lastly, there are three major types of tasks for any online usability test. They include interview-based tasks, verb-based tasks and scavenger hunt tasks. The best approach to this is to start writing a website usability test plan as soon as you learn you’ll be testing.

Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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