User Testing Tips: How to Be a Kick-Butt Facilitator

user testing tips

Once you’re done writing your tasks, you breathe a sigh of relief. But wait! No matter how good your tasks may be, the facilitation process can either make or break a moderated test. 

Here are top tips for facilitation from testing “guru” Kara Pernice's session at the recent Nielsen Norman Group conference. 

  1. Run a pilot test with one of your observers in advance so you have an idea of the test flow.
  2. Be friendly when you greet the tester, but not overly friendly. Then, when the testing begins they won't think your sudden sense of quietness is the result of something they've done wrong. As hard as it is sometimes, it's not your job to be buddy-buddy. 
  3. Pay your tester before the test so they don't fake it. You want their honest opinions. 
  4. Remember: It is an observation not a conversation. If you are going to interrupt, it better be important! 
  5. Give subtle signs of acknowledgment – “mmmm's” and nods will suffice.
  6. Forget closed questions or leading questions like, "You seemed to struggle on this part of the page - why?" Instead, bring them back to the page and have them walk you through all of the elements. Let them show you were they felt like they had trouble. 
  7. Always test for the entire scheduled time. Have backup questions ready in the case the user finishes early. 

As a web development agency, we can’t help but throw one last tip out there: 

Make sure your testing and design iterations are accounted for in your development and design schedule. Without a well-thought out timeline, you will likely have to sacrifice the number of quality changes that can be made. However, if you plan properly, it will ensure you have time to review, iterate and implement the majority your learnings.

Have you facilitated a user test? Share your tips in the comments!

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