Monday, October 13, 2008
Full-day Seminar, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Dana Chisnell

Usability Testing Techniques: Collecting User Data on a Shoestring

Dana Chisnell, UsabilityWorks

If you need to learn whether your design is working effectively for your users, there’s no better tool than usability testing. Many companies, universities, and government agencies are now regularly conducting usability tests.

However, for some organizations, it’s still considered a luxury. When there’s limited time and money in the budget, how can teams get the most out of usability testing?

For example:

  • An intranet manager at a major insurance company is constantly battling her IT department because the IT managers don’t realize what the intranet users are going through. Yet, as the sole “usability person” on the team, she needs to find a quick and efficient way to gather and communicate the user research, while doing everything else her job demands.
  • A web designer at a small midwestern university is chartered with making the university’s web site the best it could be. Having never thought about usability before, he now has to conduct his first tests with a very meager budget.

Even teams with large research budgets need to know how to get the most information for the least amount of money and effort. That's why we've asked Dana Chisnell, an expert usability practitioner, and co-author of the seminar book, The Handbook of Usability Testing, to develop a seminar for folks looking to glean user feedback with tight resources.

All too often, clients tell us they don’t have the money or resources to hire consultants or conduct full-blown usability tests. Taking these legitimate constraints into account, Dana will show you how to plan, design, conduct, and analyze usability tests—all on a shoestring budget. You will come away from this seminar having learned both formal and informal testing techniques for making the best design decisions possible.

As the seminar begins, Dana will share a minimal budget and schedule for a complete usability project, walking through the costs and schedule for planning, recruiting participants, designing tasks, moderating the study, and analyzing the results. Then she’ll do the impossible—show you how to produce effective results with even less money and time. Dana will show you what parts of the process you can live without, and which essentials you’ll need to keep.

You will also learn:

  • How to plan and design an exploratory usability test. Dana will show you how to design a test to produce great results with the most meager of budgets.
  • How to create tasks and scenarios. Dana will show you tricks to designing effective tasks and scenarios that get you the answers your team needs.
  • How to take informative notes during testing. Our notes contain the golden nuggets that make testing worthwhile. You’ll learn note-taking tips to uncover the information you need from each task.
  • How to recruit the right participants. Investing in recruitment can payoff big in the data analysis. Dana will share practical techniques for recruiting participants quickly, even when your budget is tight. You’ll see simple techniques for writing a good screening questionnaire, and learn how to conduct a short screening interview. Dana will also explain why it’s best to focus on user behavior, not demographics.
  • Why a formal usability lab isn’t necessary. Dana will show you how to collect quality user feedback, even if you don't have the fancy one-way mirror and high-tech recording equipment.
  • How to take the fear out of moderating sessions for you and your non-usability- professional teammates. Testing can be stressful for test participants—and new moderators! You’ll learn proven techniques for keeping the participants relaxed while they share their frustrations and delights with the design. Plus, you’ll have a chance to practice your moderating skills.
  • How to analyze the test results. You'll see how to decide what to report and how it can best help your particular audience, whether it's senior management, or members of the technical staff. Dana will also share tips for quickly writing your report, even before you’ve finished designing your test.

This seminar has plenty of discussion time built in—it’s critical to ensure you can adapt these new techniques to your own practice. You’ll have the opportunity to describe your biggest issues, and have complete access to Dana's years of expertise. After all, she's written the book on usability testing.

Who Should Attend

This is the most practical usability testing seminar you can ever attend. It’s perfect for Product Managers, Designers, Engineers, and Technical Writers who are just starting out with usability tests. Or, if you have already conducted some tests, but want to refine and your skills, attending this course is a great way to ensure you get the most out of each test.

This seminar is also great for anyone who has wanted to do exploratory usability testing but hasn’t had a budget, or anyone who has budget to do design research but wants to spend it more effectively.

UI13 Seminar Recommendations: If you're interested in Dana's full-day seminar, you may also want to attend Donna (Maurer) Spencer's seminar on The Essentials of Information Architecture or Kim Goodwin's on Interaction Design.