Usability Testing Essentials: Hands-on Workshop and Best Practices

Carol Barnum

Overview

Whatever job you hold, user experience is—or should be—a part of it. That’s why usability testing is such a good fit for technical communicators. We are the voice of the user, so why not also be able to share what we learn from users by observing how they work with our products? We learn from them, educate ourselves and other product stakeholders about who our users are and how they interact with our products, and make our products better as user experience improves.

Perhaps your company doesn’t know what it’s missing in not understanding the user’s experience first-hand, and you want to be the one to advocate for a testing program. Maybe you are conducting usability testing but you’ve done it without formal training. Or perhaps you had a course in college, but you’re not up on best practices today.

Whether you are self-taught, unschooled in the topic, or looking to upgrade your skills, this online course will take you step by step through the process of planning and conducting a test, analyzing the results, and reporting them—with the goal of educating yourself and other stakeholders on the user’s experience and helping build user experience research into the development cycle.

As a hands-on workshop based in best practices, you will work in small teams on a sponsored project and share the results with all of us. With lots of discussion to help everyone digest the material and learn from each other, you will progress through the stages of planning, testing, and reporting. Your deliverables will include a test plan and final presentation of results. Both can be used to showcase your skills in usability testing.

Students can expect to spend 10-15 hours per work on activities related to planning, conducting, and testing, analyzing results, and preparing to present the results to the project sponsor.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • plan an effective usability study
  • conduct an effective usability study
  • analyze the findings to make sense of the results
  • report the findings convincingly

Session Descriptions

Class meetings are mainly for discussion and feedback as the project progresses, with some weeks set aside for teamwork to prepare for project deliverables.  The 8-week course includes five class sessions, one session scheduled with the instructor to observe the pilot test, and two weeks of independent team activities to work on the project. Regular attendance in all class meetings and active participation in weekly discussions is essential for success in the course.

The text for the course is Barnum's Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test! Available on Amazon.com. It is recommended that students purchase the paperback, not the e-book version, as the formatting is better in the physical book. The companion website includes samples and examples of project deliverables and other support material. 

You will be expected to read the assigned chapters in the text and apply the appropriate principles and practices to the testing project.

As a hands-on workshop based in best practices, you will work in small teams on a project with a designated sponsor. With lots of discussion to help everyone digest the material and learn from each other, you will progress through the stages of planning, testing, and reporting. Your deliverables will reflect a fully developed test plan and final presentation that you can share with others to promote your skills in usability testing.

Students should expect to spend 10-15 hours per week on planning and research activities outside of the designated class meetings.

The deliverables in the course will comprise:

  • written test plan
  • oral presentation (PowerPoint)  of results of testing

Session 1
TBD
4:00-5:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Establish the essentials. What and how to test. Keeping it small. Craft an approach to small studies with specific users.

Session 2
TBD
4:00-5:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Kick off the sponsored project. Form testing teams. Establish team roles/responsibilities.

Session 3
TBD
4:00-5:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Users, tasks, test goals. Draft test plan. Share ideas. Refine test plan in preparation for testing.

Session 4
No class meeting.

Working session to complete test plan. Conduct walkthrough.

Session 5
TBD

Teams schedule pilot test with instructor during this week.

Session 6
No class meeting.

Teams conduct usability testing sessions.

Session 7
TBD
4:00-5:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Analyze findings. Determine top findings, prepare for oral report.

Session 8
TBD
4:00-5:30 PM EDT (GMT-4)

Present results.

Presenter Biography

Dr. Carol M. Barnum is a UX pioneer (http://www.adlininc.com/uxpioneers/archives.html) and drector of research at the Atlanta-based UX Firm LLC. She is the author of six books including her most recent work Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set…Test! She is an award-winning speaker, writer, and presenter and has been conducting usability research with a diverse range of clients and products for two decades. She is an STC Fellow,  and the recipient of the Gould Award for Excellence in Teaching Technical Communication and the Rainey Award for Excellence in Research.