Preparing Users for Usability Testing

| 5 min read

Conducting usability tests can be made much easier when the users are properly prepared. This can be a daunting exercise when you first start conducting usability tests but fortunately; it’s not as challenging as it might seem. There are four simple tips that can help you get users in the right frame of mind to work with you on usability tests:

Be Considerate and Act Like a Host

When you first meet the person; it’s a good idea to remember that that’s what they are – a person as opposed to a number on your list. You should greet someone warmly and if it’s culturally appropriate – make eye contact (it’s worth noting that in some cultures eye contact can be seen as a sign of a challenge, in a globalized world – it never hurts to do some research before you meet your users).

Author/Copyright holder: Nathan. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Make sure that they have a comfortable seat. You can offer them a drink (preferably a soft drink unless you’re doing usability tests on alcohol). Ensure that the temperature is about right for them. If you put people at their ease; they’re more likely to work well with you.

Give the Person Control Over Their Situation

The word “test” makes a lot of people nervous. Even in situations like usability testing where there are no “right” or “wrong” answers they can feel intimidated. It’s best to give someone control over their fate to reassure them in these circumstances. Just make certain that they know that participation is voluntary and that if they find anything uncomfortable that they can ask you to stop and that you will. It’s unlikely that someone will actually do this but knowing that they can will make all the difference to their state of mind.

Deliver Your Introductory Script

Author/Copyright holder: Usability Testing How To. Copyright terms and licence: All rights reserved Img source

I find it’s best to keep notes and use them to explain what will be happening and what will be expected from people. Why? Because the more you deliver these tests; the more likely you are to miss a point without realizing it and settle into a pattern of reduced efficiency. It’s much easier to have a short set of notes of all the important points (they don’t need to be a long flow script – just reminders of what to say) so that you can ensure a consistent start to user tests.

Pony Up at the Start

Author/Copyright holder: Vincent Diamante. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Want to tell someone you trust them? Pay them in advance. Most usability tests offer some kind of reward to participants. Give them that gift card (or whatever you are offering) right at the front. Then they know that they are safe. That they’ve been paid and thus can speak their minds on any issues that they encounter. Otherwise, they may hold back on you because they’re afraid that the payment will evaporate if they get critical.


These four simple steps will help you conduct better usability tests with your users by putting them at ease from the outset.

Header Image: Author/Copyright holder: Leanne Waldal. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NS 2.0

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