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6 minutes read

9 Steps to Getting Honest User Feedback from Usability Testing

By Robert Kazmi
By Robert Kazmi
6 minutes read

Usability testing is essential for both your application and website. It’s not just a suggestion that your development team should try. With the right usability testing, you can launch better, faster, and with the least amount of wasted resources.

That’s because, when you have honest feedback from a user and you see the issues they face when using your app or website, you can determine exactly where to allocate resources. It’s a step above simply using analytics.

Now, we’ve already discussed some different types of user testing, and we’ve even given you some tips on how to run those tests. However, you still don’t know how to put those usability tests into action and get the best results.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of running a usability test, and highlight 9 steps to get the most honest and useful user feedback. It’s a bit of a checklist/guide that you can use for every usability test moving forward. A big part of this guide is assuring that the test participants feel comfortable with the test—as this is crucial to get honest feedback.

Ready? Here we go!

What to do before organizing the test

In order to run a great usability test, you need to be well-prepared beforehand. You can avoid potential miscues and make sure you achieve the right objectives through the testing.

1. Write down the test hypotheses

Your hypothesis can come from many sets of qualitative and quantitative data. You can use analytics, user research, customer journeys, competitive analysis, and other relevant sources. Based on this data, you can predict potential issues with the app or website, as well as how users will react and respond to the design.

What problems and assumptions would you like to investigate further? What questions do you want to be answered? Describe the assumptions implicit in the design, and make predictions about users’ behavior. Then, develop your hypotheses about what users will do. Structure your testing to address those hypotheses.

Here’s an example of a good hypothesis: “Users will have trouble navigating through to the ‘shopping cart’ page.”

Create a few different hypotheses—this will allow you to get more valuable information from the usability tests.

2. Create scenarios and tasks for the test

Once you’ve formed the hypotheses, it’s time to create scenarios and a set of tasks. The scenarios should be based on the hypotheses and should be broken down into small and meaningful tasks. The tasks should be easy to understand and self-explanatory.

Here’s a good example of a task: “Imagine that you’re at home and you need to use {Name of the product} to {first use case}. Enter {url} and start working on your goal, just as you usually do. Please share your thoughts with us aloud so we can understand your feelings at each particular moment.”

This is clear and easy to understand for the participant. We’ll get to how the ‘think aloud’ protocol later, but for now, just focus on creating scenarios with detailed tasks.

3. Recruit the right participants and schedule the sessions

You won’t always be able to do guerrilla usability testing, where you simply grab some cash, head down to the local cafe, and buy drinks for willing participants. If your user base is more specific, you’ll need to go out and find the right participants.

It’s important to keep an impartial panel of testing participants for effective and honest results, so stay away from using family, friends, or employees. There are professional agencies, like a market research firm, that can source and supply you with participants that fit into whichever target group you need. Be certain any firm you hire keeps information about your company (even the company name) that may allow bias hidden from the participants.

Once you have a set of participants, schedule the sessions. Ideally, testing will take place in a room with no distractions.

What to do before each testing session?

4. Familiarize participants with the environment

The first impression is crucial here. It’s important that each participant feels comfortable in the environment—after all, you want them to behave as if they were using the app or site from home or work.

To do this, make sure to provide clear directions on how to get to the testing location, and meet them at the location if necessary. Avoid using intimidating terms like ‘usability testing’ as these may put people on edge.

Greet participants with a warm welcome, and explain the legal forms that must be signed. Reassure participants that the test is confidential, and the forms simply grant permission to use the data generated as part of your results.

5. Double-check equipment

Make sure the recording equipment works, as well as the internet connection and any other technology needed for the tests. Also, be sure to print out the tasks and scenarios for the participant. This just makes the process easier and hassle-free for participants.


During the testing session.


6. Think-aloud protocol

With this protocol, you ask participants to complete tasks while continuously ‘thinking out loud’—basically, keeping a running monologue and talking through their thought process. Tell them to point out what they like, don’t like, and where they see possible improvements. Reassure participants that you’re not testing them, you’re testing the application or website.

7. Present tasks one at a time

Make sure to only give participants one task at a time. Throwing several tasks at them might intimidate them and alter their approach to the test, comprising results. Once you present the task, allow users to accomplish the task in their own way, without intervening.

After each testing session


8. Ask relevant questions

Ask for overall impressions of the app or site, so you can judge if expectations have been met. You want to gain as much information as possible here. Also, be sure to ask what they remember about the structure and functions of the app or website.

9. Ask for suggestions

This shows that you value their thoughts and opinions, and it also gives you insights into how you can improve the user experience.

Have you started usability testing for your application or website? How has the feedback been so far? Tweet us out!

Usability Testing Checklist.

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