Popping the big question(s): How well? How easily? How valuable?

When teams decide to do usability testing on a design, it is often because there’s some design challenge to overcome. Something isn’t working. Or, there’s disagreement among team members about how to implement a feature or a function. Or, the team is trying something risky. Going to the users is a good answer. Otherwise, even great teams can get bogged down. But how do you talk about what you want to find out? Testing with users is not binary – you probably are not going to get an up or down, yes or no answer. It’s a question of degree. Things will happen that were not expected. The team should be prepared to learn and adjust. That is what iterating is for (in spite of how Agile talks about iterations).

Ask: How well
Want to find out whether something fits into the user’s mental model? Think about questions like these:

  • How well does the interaction/information information architecture support users’ tasks?
  • How well do headings, links, and labels help users find what they’re looking for?
  • How well does the design support the brand in users’ minds?

Ask: How easily
Want to learn whether users can quickly and easily use what you have designed? Here are some questions to consider:

  • How easily and successfully do users reach their task goals?
  • How easily do users recognize this design as belonging to this company?
  • How easily and successfully do they find the information they’re looking for?
  • How easily do users understand the content?
  • How easy is it for users to understand that they have found what they were looking for?
  • How easy or difficult is it for them to understand the content?

Ask: How valuable

  • What do users find useful about the design?
  • What about the design do they value and why?
  • What comments do participants have about the usefulness of the feature?

Ask: What else?

  • What questions do your users have that the content is not answering?
  • What needs do they have that the design is not addressing?
  • Where do users start the task?

Teams that think of their design issues this way find that their users show them what to do in the way they perform with a design. Rarely is the result of usability testing an absolute win or lose for a design. Instead, you get clues about what’s working – and what’s not – and why. From that, you can make a great design.

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