User testing in 15 minutes

Five steps to effective user-testing

User-testing does not have to be fancy or complicated. The best learning happens when the government staff person who is responsible for a service has the opportunity to observe a member of the public using that service. 

By taking 15-30 minutes up front to gather this input during the creation process, the user experience of your website and forms is dramatically improved. 

Short investment of time up front = greatly reduced calls and walk in traffic to government staff

  1. Grab a human (a resident of your area) in a place they already are
  2. Ask them to use your laptop/tablet/phone (or theirs) to try to complete an action on your current and your new/beta website (no need for fancy test environments, expensive set up, or loads of extra time)
  3. Have them actually try it and narrate their steps for you (so you hear their thinking in addition to observing it)
  4. Zip your lips and take notes (your job is to observe, not to “help” them do it)
  5. After they finish, ask them to tell you - How easy/hard was it to use the service? Was it what you expected? How could it be better for you?
Data collection
  • Where did you do the test and who they were “30-something school teacher testing in the Library”
  • Your overall observation of how easy/hard it was and where they had issues “She was unsure of what to write in the first question, which is an open-text answer”
  • Summary of 2-3 things they said after the fact “1, This was not very clear when I started. 2, I really liked the fillable form instead of having to call in to City Hall. 3, I wish you had made the first few questions more structured so that I could have answered more easily.”
  • Your thoughts on what to do with this information “We need to make the first question a check box”)
Pro Tips
  • Provide a cup of coffee or a $5 drink voucher in exchange for their time
  • Don’t lead the user by making suggestions or giving “tips”
  • Watch what they do, more than what they say. How hard do they have to work to accomplish the task?
  • Look for pauses in action. Where do they get stuck?
  • Identify ‘Workarounds’ or adaptations when things aren’t working. For example, heading to Google when Search on the site doesn’t work well