Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick Turnaround Usability Testing

Quick usability testing ...

"It starts with any number of scenarios: Design and development have taken too long to produce a prototype, you need to release in three weeks, and you suspect there may be design flaws. You are trying to incorporate usability testing into an Agile development process. Or maybe you simply want to pare down your process to make it shorter and less expensive.

Completing usability testing quickly is a challenge anywhere but especially in consultancies, which have to overcome additional challenges, such as learning a new application. To assure success on these projects, I’ve developed a quick turnaround usability testing methodology (QTUT) that minimizes the time needed to complete testing. In Part I of this article, I discuss how to make the first three steps of QTUT—Sales & Kickoff, Recruitment, and Preparation—as short and efficient as possible. In Part II, I will discuss the final two steps: Testing and Analysis & Reporting.

Steps in the QTUT Process

Step 1: Sales & Kickoff

Step 2: Recruitment

Step 3: Preparation

Step 4: Testing

Step 5: Analysis & Reporting
Sales & Kickoff

A new client or a group within your company has approached you about doing usability testing. They need the results next week, which works out to six business days from today. What should you do?

Before a project kicks off, we typically have a number of discussions with the client to understand their goals and deadlines for our engagement. However, in QTUT, each day spent in the sales and kickoff process takes a day away from testing and analysis. To help our sales team conduct initial discussions efficiently, we’ve prepared a one-page guide outlining the do’s and don’ts of QTUT.

One critical “do” for our sales team is that they should discuss the method with the client and immediately set deadlines for our testing results. Starting with the final due date, an experienced tester can work backwards to determine the dates for testing, beginning recruitment, and finishing the test plan.

It’s also important to review expectations with the client. For example, current clients typically expect a certain level of quality in our deliverables. When we compress a week of work into one day, delivering a perfect document or presentation is impossible, so simply reviewing the timeline and discussing how we plan to shorten the process is extremely helpful.

Since the project must start very quickly, our sales staff and project team use part of the kickoff as a working session. During this working session, we develop specific goals, learn what types of results will be helpful, develop an initial list of testing tasks, and learn about the users that we need to test the application. We also compile a list of what we need from the client. Depending on the project, we may need:

* Information about users for both recruiting and for writing the test script. For example, do people regularly use the application or do they only use it occasionally?
* Training materials for the application and a subject matter expert who can answer questions.
* Background information, feedback, or previous testing materials that give context to the current design or may help us to write screeners and test scripts.
* Access to a stable application, especially when it is under development.

Sales & Kickoff Tips

* Create a “Do’s & Don’ts” guide to help team members through the process.
* Avoid clients who are rigid, who prefer not to participate in the process, or who want long reports.
* Use the kickoff as a working session to learn about the participants and potential tasks.
* Have a facilitator available with the domain knowledge needed to quickly learn the application.
* Refine your methodology before you have a project."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows, Paul Nuschke)    [Usability Resources]

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