How to Outsource Representative Users

Tell them that you are testing the website, not them.

Representative users are those who will test the site. Don’t misunderstand, but deploying real users is more acceptable more so during a redesign. At this point, your digital marketing Philippines may ask for assistance such as to provide a few names that can be representative users. Finding these users may or may not be easy. Bear in mind though that even a representative user is better than none.

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What is the right number of representative users?

There are several factors with which the need for representative users will be based. One of these factors is the complexity of the scenarios. A scenario is a plausible situation for the user to run through. Scenarios can be simple and complex. The more complex the scenarios, the more representative users you need.

Five representative users is a commonplace. Nevertheless, that’s not a hard rule. It still depends on the time it takes to walk through the scenarios. If the scenarios will take about 20 minutes, double that time. Add another 20 minutes or so for briefing time. Five representative users is enough for an hour of testing. Add more users if the testing time will require more than one hour.

Another factor is whether the usability is qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative tests usually require 20 representative users especially when the scenarios are complex. Such a number will find major and minor errors in just a few round. In the same way that a few representative users can for a round of a qualitative test.

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With that, it is important to pace your tests. Usability testing is hard work wherein you cannot conduct more than three rounds in any given day otherwise your users will be already exhausted to continue. A round of a qualitative test can be done after lunch every day for 3 to 5 days. Make it two sessions each day for quantitative tests, if possible.

Another critical decision is finding the right test subjects. When we say ‘right,’ this means the representative users are as similar as the intended users. It would be much better if you have created user personas as it is much easy to determine the types of users to target. Refer to these user personas when choosing representative users.

If not, you should consider your target audience when using the representatives. However, don’t focus on demographics too much. Instead, find representative users who have the same needs.

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How to find the right representative users?

While finding the right users is challenging, there are many people around you who may qualify as a representative user. Again, this is easier for a website that has a steady stream of users, but only needs a redesign for whatever purpose the site owner may have. You simply need to contact the users randomly and ask whether they can come to your office and be one of the representative users.

Nonetheless, even if you are only redesigning the website, but long for fresh perspectives and inputs, then you may consider a different set of representative users.

In finding the right users, you may always utilize social networking sites such as Facebook. But, of course, you can always ask your family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, etc. to be a part of the panel of users. Don’t tell them that you are the one who redesigned the site because there might be some bias on their part. They won’t readily tell you what is wrong about the site, fearing that you might get hurt. Tell them that you are testing the website and not them.

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Spread the word, but make sure that you include at least five screener questions for filtering participants. Through this, only those that meet your criteria will proceed with the test.

Remember that recruitment may longer than you expected. First, you need to find the right users. Second, you need to evaluate their suitability. Third, you have to agree on schedules. Fourth, you need to agree on payment. At times, it is more tolerable to offer payment so that the participants will be generous to give their thoughts about the site knowing that they are being paid to do so. About $10 to $20 would be enough for an hour or two of usability testing.

It may not necessarily be a monetary reward, but it is a must to offer incentives. Very few people will make time for you for free. The higher or more attractive the incentives are, the more people you can attract from even rare niches. Consider paying them first before the testing starts, so that they won’t feel they are doing hard work just to earn money.

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If you were doing a series of testing (i.e. testing, changes, testing, changes and so on), it would be advisable to form your own pool of users. However, you cannot choose a user that performs the first round of testing for the second round of testing even if the budget is limited. This practice will only skew the results.

Even before the testing commences, make sure that you have already chosen a neutral venue. Our tendency is to pick a spare room or space in the office. This is okay although the users may feel intimidated and suppress by the setup. Your goal is finding a venue that is closest to the natural setting of the representative user. If it means their respective homes, then so be it.

Don’t forget to record each session. Video cameras will suffice. But if you really want a holistic assessment of the testing session, you may consider deploying another person for note-taking if a usability testing software is too ambitious for you. If you are going to record through cameras or a webcam though, ask the permission of the participant first.

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Before the actual testing takes place, explain the concept of think aloud. It is simply the practice of verbalizing what they are thinking. If after giving their scenario and during the session, the users remained quiet, the administrator (or moderator) may inject questions like ‘What are your reactions to the page?’ ‘What are you thinking now?’ and ‘What do you think is page is for?’ Avoid leading and subjective questions such as ‘Do you like what you are seeing?’ ‘Do you think it would be nice if this button is bigger?’ As such, ask open and probing questions or those questions that start with what, why or how. They give the users an opportunity to explain how they have understood the website.

In the end, after finding usability issues, you need to prioritize those based on difficulty and impact. That’s how you find representative users and maximize their contributions. Through these processes, you can only expect substantial changes to the website while making it ready for the second round of testing if needs be.

Image credit: ArrkGroup.com | Moboom.com | Usernomics.com | UXBooth.com | Usability.de | Bouvet.no | DTelepathy.com

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