What do you want to test? Your detailed goals will form the basis of specific hypotheses. For example, a purchase is probably the most important goal of an ecommerce website. The hypothesis might be: Simple is always better. Reducing the checkout to three steps will increase our ecommerce goal completion rates.
If you’re testing a system or site that’s not yet completed, you may not have benchmarks or historic data to begin guessing what possibility might be better over another. Using the same example as above, the goal would still have a hypothesis – it would just be less specific: People are more likely to make a purchase if they like the experience.
Scenarios – or task descriptions – will help establish a realistic framework for your test. This step may seem straightforward but it is incredibly important. Remember, scenarios should always be a neutral as possible – meaning they don’t suggest a specific way for completing the task. A few examples:
Next, make sure you have a quiet room or office to conduct the test – a place where participants won’t be distracted or feel pressured. You’ll also need a pre-selected list of participants. For an initial usability test, 3 – 5 people is generally sufficient. Participants should loosely fit your target audience and must not be familiar with your website. Why? People familiar with the site are more likely to have preconceived ideas about what works and what doesn’t – and getting insight from the wrong demographic may end up hurting instead of helping your efforts.
For smaller tests, you may want to consider the friends and family members of coworkers. They’re easy to access and typically don’t want much in return.
The dialogue you will have with participants should be created beforehand and the individuals conducting the test should be familiar with it. It’s critical to establish a neutral, non-stressful rapport by outlining the following upfront:
Tip: Having participants speak out loud as they complete tasks will reveal volumes of valuable information (and you can take notes). However, documenting every detail will still omit insights that are only realized during the post-test review. Make sure you have a good screen-capture tool recording everything participants do and say for best results.
Once you’ve done the test and fully analyzed the results, it’s time to identify and prioritize the top 3 – 5 issues uncovered so you can fix them. Set up your metrics so that you can start collecting data to measure the actual impact on your KPIs. Let that information collect and get started on the next set of hypotheses you’d like to test.