Preparing for a User Test

Unfortunately I've found as a tester that the very time I am packing up and organising a user test is also amongst the busiest time at work. I am testing the code at a frantic pace trying to make sure that there are as few bugs as possible. How can you stay sane at this time and make sure that everything is organised for your test. Here are some of the ways that we prepare for a user test.

  1. Confirm everything before hand - confirm who from your customer is meeting you at what time. Confirm that a room is being provided for the testing debrief, who will meet the users, if advertising/banners will be up and where you can park. Confirm what refreshments are being provided and who is providing clipboards, paper, colouring pens. If you are testing at multiple sites, ideally have one person from your customer to take on this responsibility.

  2. Check your travel plans - check that hire cars and travel tickets are for the correct day, and make sure everyone has the necessary documentation (passports, licenses etc). It sounds obvious but someone is bound to forget.

  3. Get there early - I shouldn't need to say it, but never plan on getting there at the last minute. Leave time for traffic and parking, to find where you're going and to organise everything before your users arrive.

  4. Have a test day manager - it is hard work in a user test. You are trying to put users at ease, getting them to fill in questionnaires, installing software, signing waivers, getting them cups of tea, all while trying to make sure all documentation is kept and organised and that all your observations are written down. It is exhausting and if you can have someone there to help greet, organise getting waivers signed, organise refreshments, keep paperwork organised and keep all your bags and testing paraphernalia safe it will make your life easier. I have run all my user tests so far without this - but it's definitely on my wishlist.

  5. Engineers on standby - if you are running a multi-day test, make sure that someone is available to make any urgent changes to the code, and if you do this make sure you run a quick smoke test of the app to make sure nothing has been broken.

  6. Take spare devices - I find it better if users can use their own devices, however sometimes users don't have enough room on their device, it isn't charged enough, or the iOS version is too old to install the app. Having spare devices means that you have a backup plan. I also pre-install the app on my backup devices and make sure they are fully charged so we can quickly change devices.

  7. Take backup batteries and cables - There is nothing worse than an iPhone running out of charge during a test. I always take several Anker batteries, small enough to put in a pocket but powerful enough to charge several iPhones. It also means that if users are using their own devices you can send them off with a battery that isn't drained. Our apps aren't normally heavy on battery life, but often during a user test we'll add extra analytics, which can be heavier on battery life.

  8. Confirm attendance with your users - send a reminder out the week before and confirm (ideally by phone) the day before. User test are useless without users, and this gives you the best chance of having an audience to test your app.

  9. Have a short list of backup attendees - especially important if you are testing with children or families. Children get ill, and try to have other users you can call on if your users can't attend (this is partly why you confirm attendance).

  10. Check mobile coverage - when we install an iOS test app on a users mobile phone, apple make the user "trust" our company. This requires a network connection, so it needs to be checked in advance. Also if your app requires a network connection you will need to check this in advance.

  11. Make plans for lunch - I'm not talking about a 3 course meal but you will need to eat. Leave time in your schedule for lunch, and check in advance if there is a sandwich shop or somewhere you can get food. If not make sure you take food and drink with you.

  12. Pack your rainjacket/waterproofs/sunhat/sunglasses - if you are outside you can never depend on the weather, so plan for for the worst.

  13. Sort out Waivers - If you want to take photos and use them, then you will need to get waivers signed. You may also need to get these approved by your customer (or you may need to use their waiver). Some organisations may also want a waiver signed before users participate, especially if there are minors involved.

  14. Pre and Post Test Questionnaires - it's useful to know a bit about your users before they start - their age, whether they are local and have visited the site before (for site based apps), what device they normally use, model numbers and iOS/Android versions. Post test we have a questionnaire to discuss what they thought of the app, what was easy to use, what they learnt/enjoyed and what improvements they would like to see. Our questionnaire isn't exhaustive, and is often used as a starting point to get them to talk. Print these out well in advance, and staple pre and post questionnaires together so they stay linked. Make sure they can be linked to noted made while observing users during the test.

  15. Organise Refreshments - If you want users to stick around afterwards for a post test debrief, then having coffee, tea, juice, biscuits or other forms of refreshments will make this more enjoyable.

  16. Activities for children - When you are working with families you may want to talk to parents longer than the children. In this case having an activity for kids to do, will make everyones life easier. In our last test run we made colouring sheets that tied in with the app.

Liz Clarey
in Technical Tagged testing

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