OD FAQs I How do I write usability testing tasks?

“They’re Too complicated!”

That’s the most common mistake we see in tasks for a usability test. You want the test participant to focus on the website, not the tasks. Too complicated and the participant will be interacting with you, not with the website. Plus, when they’ll keep forgetting the task if it is too long.http://img.skitch.com

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These are our 10 guidelines for developing simple, effective and uncomplicated tasks for a usability test:

1 Relate each task to test objective

You don’t have many opportunities – generally only 1 hour with the participant, so keep the task focused on the purpose of the test. If the purpose is to test whether users can complete an order, get them to do just that. You should be able to tick off each of the test objectives against a task.

2 Select scenarios that rate high on frequency and/or importance

You may have only 6-8 tasks in a test, so focus on the important tasks. Find something and check out.

For a new site, you generally want to test the primary purpose of the site – find a product and check out, sign up for something, find the answer to something.

3 Don’t make them too complicated

We’ve said it before, but its important. Keep it simple, preferably to one or two sentences:

Example: You want to book a holiday for your family. Find a holiday that suits you.

4 Be as realistic as possible

Try to make the task suit the participant’s real life circumstances. That’s why you have recruited them against certain criteria. For example, don’t have people look for a holiday for an imaginary family – get them to use their own family or friends.

If you have very different user groups, say, Customer and Advisers on a banking site, you need two sets of tasks. One for each group.

5 Move from general to specific

You don’t want to lead the participant around the website by the sequence of tasks. It’s better to have an open exploratory task first to see how the participant interacts with the website.  Then, move to the more specific tasks, based on the objectives and the new functionality.

6 Avoid using the words on the website

Using words on the website leads people. Try to write the task in everyday language.

Example: You want to take out your superannuation NOT You want to consolidate your super.

7 Use concrete language

As much as possible, use active verbs to describe the task – Book a hotel in Rome; Buy a Xmas present for your partner; Find out the weather forecast for today.

8 Follow a logical flow through the website

Try to make the test follow a natural customer journey from start to finish. For example, on an e-commerce site, the customer may explore, compare, purchase, create an account, and check out. Your test should follow this sequence.

9 For information tasks, instruct the participant on how to end

Don’t leave the participant floundering when they have reached the end of the task. Have the participant tell the facilitator when they have found the answer.

Example: Find a cruise which interests you. Tell the facilitator when you have found it.

10 Utilise other communications

Showing the participant other product material such as brochures, leaflets or ads can be useful if you don’t want to explain too much in a task. Then it is up to the participant to work it out from the website, and the extra material.

Example: You saw this ad on a bus stop. Find out if this product would suit you.


Of course, we will write the tasks with you!

Feel free to read more usability FAQs on our website.

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About Objective Experience

Objective Experience is your partner for customer experience strategy, research, design and usability testing. Our team of passionate Customer Experience Consultants uncover insights from your customers to optimize customer journeys across all digital and physical channels – mobile apps, websites, systems, shopper and retail. We research on how customers interact with products, services and environments through interviews, surveys, focus groups, desk research, eye tracking and usability testing. Actionable recommendations are developed from our in-depth observations and testing. Our partners and clients come from a wide range of businesses and industries - from large financial institutions and government organisations to technical consultancies, Universities and not-for-profit businesses. Objective Digital Holdings Pty Ltd has offices in Sydney (Objective Experience Sydney) and Singapore (Objective Experience Singapore). Eye Tracking, CX, UX, Usability Testing, Shopper Research & Design Thinking across Australasia and South East Asia.

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