Usability testing is absolutely critical to user-centered iterative design. The process of conducting usability testing is very straightforward, though there may be required some practise before perfecting that poker face ;)
Step 1: Give Instructions to the user.
- Let them know that they are to "think out loud" when carrying out the defined tasks (which should include red routes/critical tasks).
- Explain to them that your role is to communicate what you do and say to the software developers.
- Let them know that you won't be able to explain or answer any of their questions, but for them to feel free to ask them anyway. Tell them it's because you want to create the most realistic situation possible
Step 2: Demonstrate and let them practise.
- Start by demonstrating what 'think aloud' should sound like. Show them how you would turn your phone to silent.
- Then, ask them to 'think aloud' with a simple task, such as adding a new contact on their phone, or adjusting something in the room.
- If they are not able to think aloud to the level required, do not proceed until they get it right.
Step 3: Probe with open questions.
When they are talking, or asking questions, probe! But don't answer or provide any bias in your response. "Keep talking"; "Tell me more"; "What are you thinking right now"? Are good questions.
- User: "That was Easy!". You: "What was easy?"
- User: "Is that how it's supposed to work?". You: "Is that how you expected it to work?"
- Focus on the present. Instead of "Is this a useful feature?", ask, "Would this feature, as it is currently presented, be valuable to the way you choose products today?"
- Focus on specifics. Instead of "Is this a good idea?", ask, "was there anything you particularly liked or disliked about the prototype? What specifically?"
- Don't be judgmental. Instead of "Don't you think this option would be better if it was available on the home page?", ask, "Is there any other place you'd like to see a feature like this?"
- Don't encourage confabulation. Instead of "You seem surprised, were you?", ask, "was that what you expected?" or "what did you expect"?
And very importantly,
Keep your poker face on!!
Watch this hilarious video about keeping the poker face on that will demonstrate the difficulty of doing so :)