You’ve been at your local coffee shop working feverishly on the design for your next project. You like the shape your design is taking, but you really need to gather feedback. Here’s how to have an impromptu usability session:
You will need:
- A design you are working on, with a rough idea of things you’d like to test;
- $25 in spare cash;
- An iPad;
- The guts to approach strangers.
The idea is straight forward. You are going to offer to buy someone a drink of their choice in exchange for 10 minutes of feedback on the design you’ve been working on.
- Preload the design you are testing in the browser on your iPad. That way you can get straight into it without Angry Birds distracting them.
- Scan the people in the coffeeshop for someone in your target demographic. I have the most success approaching people who are alone. Avoid shady looking people sitting near an exit.
- Approach the person. Be friendly and courteous. Explain that you are gathering feedback for a project you’re working on. Explain why you chose them specifically and offer a free drink in exchange of 10 minutes of their time.
- Be prepared to be turned down. This is a weird thing you are asking them to do. If they say no, be sure to thank them anyway. Don’t pressure them or you may turn away other potential participants sitting nearby.
- If they say yes, ask a few qualifying questions to make sure they fit your demographic. If not, apologize and move on. You won’t want to be too picky here, but it is important that they understand the basics of the web and the purpose you exist.
- Buy the drink. I find buying it up front is a nice gesture. It’s also serves as a built in timer. If they finish the drink before you are done, it’s time to thank them and move on.
- Proceed with your testing. I prefer not to take notes during the session. It’s only 10 minutes and it makes people feel like they are back at work.
- When time is up, thank them again and move on. Don’t overstay your welcome, but don’t be rude either.
A few tips:
- Don’t do these studies back to back. You don’t want it to seem like you came here farming for participants. Make it casual. After your study, go back to work or leave and come back later.
- People are always working, so be considerate of the fact that you are interrupting them. It’s ok to ask someone who’s reading or working on a project, but make sure they know that you’ll be around for a little while if they want a few minutes to finish what they are working on.
- Sit at a table which allows you to sit next to them without invading their personal space. I don’t recommend couches or lounge chairs which can seem a bit too personal.
- Have a drink along with your participant. Many people feel awkward eating/drinking in front of others, so make sure they feel comfortable.
Note: This technique is best used for testing high level ideas. It shouldn’t be used in place of formal testing nor as your exclusive means of testing. But, it works great in a pinch.
Keep in mind that navigating a website with fingers is quite different than with a mouse. Be careful to ignore problems that arise simply because you are testing on an iPad.