Today’s question comes from Raguram Venkatesan, one of the 9,215 students taking my User Experience Design Fundamentals course on Udemy.

Q: Hi Joe, first, I just wanted to drop a note that the ebook is fantastic. I am interested in knowing if you have any resources for usability testing. We have recently completed an internal product release at our company and I am interested in getting some real feedback on the usability front.

A: Hi Ragu! Thank you for the kind words on the ebook — I’m thrilled to hear you’re finding it valuable and I really appreciate your saying so.

With regard to usability testing, there are several ways to do it — and what I want to stress up front is that this does not have to be a formal process! Regardless of the method you choose, the 3 questions you need to ask and answer up front (which will help you determine the method best for your situation) are:

  1. What will we test?
  2. Where will we test?
  3. Who will we test?

The answers determine how detailed your usability testing needs to be.

What: if you have a lot of moving parts (screens, functions, workflows) that need to be tested, capturing and measuring results may become difficult if you’re doing it guerrilla-style.

Where: If your users are spread out geographically and it’s difficult to get everyone in a room at the same time for a single session, an online tool may be the right answer.

Who: If your users fall into multiple categories in terms of personas, job roles and what part of the system they’ll use, you may want to run separate tests for each group, workflow and functionality set.

My advice is to go as lean and as simple as you can at first. The only things that matter here are that you (1) get a strong representative sample of users (the more the better, but I’ve seen many successful tests with just 15 people) and (2) capture what they do with a high level of detail and accuracy.

Here’s a great video from Steve Krug (author of “Don’t Make Me Think”) on his simple Usability testing method, which I’ve used myself over the years.

And while I’ve never used it myself, several of my colleagues swear by There are others as well, but this one is the most widely used and gets the best reviews from folks I know.

All that said, the most important thing about Usability Testing is that you DO it. Anything is always better than nothing. Don’t guess what people will expect or what they will do — find out. Even if all you can manage to do is get 10 of your colleagues to use the system and allow you to videotape them doing it, then do that. It’s valuable and it will help.

Let me know what you decide to do, and how it goes.


— Joe

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