Conducting your test: Overview

Ideally, your usability testing sessions will involve:

  • your participant
  • a facilitator (the person asking questions)
  • one or more notetakers
  • any number of observers (optional).

Occasionally, you may have to play the role of the facilitator and notetaker at the same time. This can be the case if you’re running testing sessions on your own, or others are unable to make it at the scheduled time. If this is the case, stay focussed on your participant by recording your session and writing up observations afterwards.

At a basic level, the role of the facilitator is to follow the testing script and keep the session on track. This includes introducing others involved, explaining the purpose of the session, keeping the participant comfortable and guiding them as they complete a series of tasks.

In reality, facilitating a usability testing session involves a range of questioning and probing to get to the core of what the participant is thinking and feeling as they interact with the design.

As a facilitator, you should continually encourage your participant to think out loud, and address any hesitations and pauses. Non-verbal cues (such as facial expressions) can provide a lot of insight into what’s going on inside a person’s head, allowing you to reach deeper insights. Make sure you’re not influencing participants in any way by leading them through the test, asking loaded questions or suggesting answers.

While others observing the usability test may have questions they want to ask throughout the session, it’s up to the facilitator to decide on the best time to follow up with any subsequent questions.

It can be tempting for participants to ask the facilitator questions to verify they’re on the right track. To avoid this, it’s best to let the participant know upfront that you may defer answering any questions until the end to avoid influencing their actions.