Six steps to getting a usability test right

Here are 6 quick steps to get your usability test on the way.


Plan ahead.  Decide when you want to run the usability study and work backwards from there. Have a kickoff meeting with your stakeholders to:

  • discuss the participant profile
  • determine the key tasks that need testing
  • walk through the prototype to be tested with the business/dev team.


Screen. Screen. Screen. Hand pick participants for whom the product is meant for. Selecting random participants for the usability test might not convince the business or tech team of the insights drawn from the study.


Get your questions ready. It’s all about asking the right questions. Structure questions that will help get to the bottom of things. Don’t assume that you understood what the participant said. Always ask “why?”


Plan a pilot. Do a dry run a day before the actual study.  Invite a stakeholder over to watch the session. That way, you can tweak your actual test based on your pilot. It’s a great way of ensuring that you have better findings.


Test. Always ensure you are at the test venue at least an hour earlier. Run a quick check on equipment, revise the script and run through the prototype to be tested. Murphy has known to be especially active in usability labs.


Get involved. Get your team to watch a few usability sessions. Get your stakeholders to join as well. Get your boss to join in. Seriously! Having people who are directly or indirectly connected to the product watch the sessions can have some great implications. Decisions that had been stuck within boardrooms are bound to be made in a jiffy.


Principles of persuasion

So your firm finally understands the importance of usability. They’ve hired a team of designers and spent a fortune on advertisements. There’s a small glitch though… customers aren’t doing what they are supposed to do i.e. buying the product that the firm has so sincerely promoted.

So how do you persuade people to actually purchase your product?

Social proof:  If all those people are doing it… there must be something to it

Social proof is the phenomenon of people imitating what other people are doing, especially when the situation is ambiguous.  We tend to look to others to validate a product. If people have recommended a hotel more than others, there is a greater chance that the hotel will be booked more often.

Reviews from other travelers help in the decision making process

Reviews from other travelers help in the decision making process

Susan Weinschenk, Phd., an expert in the science of persuasion, emphasizes the need to display peer reviews. People are more likely to imitate the behaviour of folks like themselves. The number of reviews help too, the more the reviews the more likely, people are to invest in the product/ service.

Reciprocity:  Do a good deed and the favour will be returned

People are more likely return a gift when they are given one, as they feel obliged to do so. As human beings, we have a natural urge to repay debts and return favours, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you’. In the online space, this could be seen as offering a trial to a product, offering compelling content or a service free of cost.  More often than not, people will be obliged to sign up for the product or service in question.

A free sign up promotes a sense of indebtedness among users

A free sign up promotes a sense of indebtedness among users, making it more likely for them to sign up for the premier service.

I hope this post on the principles of persuasion was helpful. In my next post, I will be sharing a few more principles of persuasion.

Concession: Comparison helps with decision making

To promote the decision making process, it is always good to present people with comparisons in price and features. It is more likely that people will buy when presented with a choice, especially when one of the options are considerably lower than the other.

One great example of this principle are the price displays in supermarkets.

Comparing prices is more likely to catch people's attention and help with decision making.

Comparing prices is more likely to catch people’s attention and help with decision making.

Usability testing – Does it apply to me?

What makes a good website? Is it the slickness of the look and feel, the features that the site offers, the interesting content or the ease of use?

The look and feel of your site maybe sensational, but what’s the point if it does not accomplish its purpose, which is to lead people to its content? The features that the site offers may be varied and interesting, but what if the user cannot get to them?

An established firm can probably afford the services of a usability consultant, but what about any of us regular people… what are the basic rules that we can follow to have a usable website? Continue reading

Customer Experience… what is it?

Customer Experience… the term gets thrown around quite a bit of late… but what does it mean and how does it translate into a discipline & something that anyone can relate to. So what is customer experience?

Customer experience is the ‘journey’ of the customer through various interactions with an organization and their perceptions therein.

In order to develop the perfect customer experience, the organization would have to
. Understand the customer journey
. Constantly design the right offers for the right customers
. Exceed customer expectations in all interactions
. Aim at pleasing customers by revamping the customer experience regularly

It’s important to note however that to develop a good customer experience, one must be aware of all the experiences on offer to the customer.

10 User Centered Design blogs you ought to read

Just thought I’d share my favorite UCD blogs with you. These are sites I read to keep in touch with the research on usability. They also make for very interesting reading.

Experience Dynamics: Frank spiller’s blog is something that every User experience professional should read. Frank has the happy knack to hitting the nail on the head with every post. Very practical info out there.

Boxes and Arrows:  In the words of David Moore, Boxes and Arrows is an “Intelligent peer-written journal on information architecture and user-centered design. Lots of practical information as well as conceptual back-up”.

Seven87: With a unique outlook on usability, marketing and customer experience, Charlie Nichols presents usability in a business environment.

Webword: John S. Rhodes operates the WebWord Blog, providing Continue reading

Information Architecture simplified

Our user experience team in office decided to form a small group that promotes the awareness and usage of usability. With this focus, we got to work brainstorming on the best way to put usability, interaction design and information architecture, in laymen’s terms.

We decided the best way to do this would be to start a newsletter. For the articles, we came up with the theme of “Weave a story”, Continue reading

The design curve

When there is a site to design, there are a lot of people who become information architects at the drop of a hat. Everyone considers himself/herself an expert on the topic. All of a sudden the designer becomes a mere puppet and is reduced to someone who simply executes everyone’s ideas in the form of a web page.

Matthew Inman in an article on calls this the design curve. According to him the more the wrong kinds of people get involved with the process, the worse the design gets. Continue reading

User Interfaces in the movies

It’s incredible how Hollywood can completely overhaul reality when it comes to computer screens in movies. Why is it so much easier to use computers in films? It never ceases to amaze me. It’s funny to think that these bloopers are being watched by all those high end developers out there, creating complex applications for a living. It’s even funnier that user experience professionals like so many of us get to run heuristic evaluations right there in our heads. Here are some of the funniest bloopers…

  • The user interfaces in movies are either in 3D or are animated.
  • Code is always being cracked in movies and it always appears as green text on a black background.
  • A computer blowing up signifies a crash of the operating system or the successful upload of a virus onto the system. Continue reading

A CUA™ at long last!


After several months of preperation and a whole lot of anxiety, I managed to get through the Certified Usability Analyst examination. I was elated and absolutely thrilled to bits.  Its humbling actually… since you now get to see that much more is going to be expected of you. Its actually the beginning of a long, long journey. But this one am going to thoroughly enjoy.

For anyone who is interested in the course structure and the fee details, I suggest you visit the human factors site and take a look at all the details.

As far as personal experience goes, I cant say it better than rahul mainkar and prashant poladia.