A usability test

While running a usability test this week, I made one mistake — that I’m aware of, anyway. I asked the participant a leading question.

Disclaimer: Saying I’m only aware of one mistake is not to say that there aren’t several areas I can improve on.

Then again, I think of it less as a mistake and more of a problem with how the task was written. I told the participant, “You’re trying to find a place on the website where you can receive coupons and deals. Can you find it?” And once she did find it, the question I was to ask was, “What do you expect you’ll receive when signing up for this email list?

Um… probably what you just said I could expect to receive. Emails and deals.

She parroted that back to me, of course, and I felt the frustration familiar to any UXD tester… the frustration of wishing their participant had given a different answer. So I said, “Do you see anything on the page?”

Then, of course, she looked at the page and saw the list of things she could expect to receive in the email and proceeded to read them off. That’s where I felt I was too leading…

Now, I could have asked originally, “Is there anything on this page that indicates what you might expect to receive in the emails?” That’s still a little leading, but not blatantly so. If the information was hidden, and it took her some time to find it, that would be useful information. The site we were testing happened to have this information shown in a prominent way.

To fix this in the future, I think I would rephrase the task and questions so the first half of it didn’t negate the second half. Perhaps I would direct the user to sign up for an email list, without describing why they wanted to sign up for it, then asked the user what they thought would be in the emails. That would definitely work on the site we were testing, considering how the email list was described and located, but perhaps not on others. Perhaps you would need to know you were looking for “coupons and deals” to find the email list that would provide them.

I think this shows the importance of knowing the website well before finalizing the tasks and questions. Perhaps, since I’m talking about mistakes, my mistake was in not doing a little more double-checking there.

Note: This blog was written during Usability week 5. 


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