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Nicky Guan

How to contact
Email: [email protected] / Cell: 415-770-3469
Tools: Sketch, InVision, Axure, Adobe Creative Suite
What I do    
I'm a full stack-designer and digital artist who uses agile user-centered methodologies in all things I do. I specialize in user experiences, visual design, content marketing, and strategies.
Usability Testing Tips
To make usability testing more effective
Recently I've been reviewing some of my UX class notes from almost 7 years ago. I found quite a few very useful tips that I believe could benefit today's research. Combining with my takeaways from IDEO.ORG's  Human-Centered Design Guidelines , below is a list of usability testing tips that I summarized.

General Tips
You can learn so much about a person's mindset, behavior, and lifestyle by simply talking with them

  • Each team member should have a clear role, like interviewer, note-taker, and photographer
  • No more than three team members should attend any single interview so as to not overwhelm the participant or crowd the location
  • Make sure you know what you would like to learn and prepare a plan that is flexible enough to pursue unexpected lines of inquiry
  • Prepare a set of questions including general questions about participant's life, values, and habits to open up the conversation. Always take these factors into account: gender, age, income, social status, etc.
  • Keep participant relaxed by using friendly language and asking broad questions before getting specific
  • Try to ask lots of "What", "Where", and "Why" questions to get as many details as possible
  • Observe the participant's body language and surroundings and learn from the context in which you're talking
  • Even if you're timing things, don't make this obvious to your users. Avoid making them feel pressured as if they are being tested
  • Ask permission before taking any pictures

Phrase Your Questions
Make sure your questions are not phrased in a way that unintentionally provides clues to the user and keeps the questions open-ended to enable natural conversation.

For example, if you want the participant to find the 'About Us' section of your product, you don't want to ask a direct question like: 

"Can you find the 'About Us' section? "

Instead, you could rephrase the question by asking:

"If you wanted to learn more about this company, where would you look?"

If the participant can't find it, or if they navigate around but not saying anything, you could then follow up with:

"Where do you expect to find this? What are you looking for? "

Right Before Test

  • Give participant a preview of the kinds of questions you'll be asking and how much time it'll take
  • Remind participant to provide feedback and make suggestions as much as they can to help improve the product
  • Encourage participant to think out loud, and behave as they would if they were really using the product
  • Keep in mind that you can't complete the tasks for the user. If participant can't figure out how to do it, you will just mark it down as "unable to complete"

During The Test

  • Stay detached and neutral - don't say things like, "Good job!"
  • Try to observe and listen as much as possible
  • Confirm or summarize what a participant has said if you want to be absolutely sure you've understood what they have already said.

After The Test

  • Give buffer time between interviews to talk about the previous interview, compare the notes, and make adjustments with your team members 
  • Discuss the tests and findings with your team to come to some conclusions
  • Write a detailed usability report (design it for your audience).


Laura Ballay, 2011-2012. Good, Cheap, Or Fast? User Research & Usability Testing, p4-9
IDEO.ORG, The Field Guide To Human-Centered Design, p39-44