Test structure recommendations

30 Jul 2009 - 9:24am
6 years ago
2 replies
441 reads
Will Hacker

I'm starting to plan some tests for a site enhancement and would like
some of your thoughts on this.

Since there are a set of individual features to use, I was thinking
of asking subjects to start by spending a few minutes exploring the
site before asking them to perform specific tasks. What are the pros
and cons to this approach?


30 Jul 2009 - 10:14am
Harry Brignull

I'm assuming you're talking about usability testing (face to face lab

I often start studies with an open exploration task (imagine you've arrived
here from google and you want to find out what the site is all about), and
then follow this with a self defined task (I get the user to tell me what
they want to do, then let them do it).

Following that, I then have a list of compelled tasks that I will give the
user if they didn't already cover them. One benefit is that the whole thing
feels natural to the user, and they often appear more motivated and
involved. One weakness is that your notes will be all over the place, as
users jump about haphazardly between pages, sections and activities. Another
weaknesses is you will have minimal quant data, so things like task failure
rates, task times, and so on will not be captured (IMHO this is fairly
worthless in a small qual study anyway).

It really depends on the context of the site you're testing, your research
objectives, and the politics of your workplace...


Harry Brignull
User Experience Consultant

30 Jul 2009 - 12:28pm
Audrey Crane

Couldn't agree with Harry more.

Another benefit is that open exploration gives you a chance to learn
things that you might not even know (and didn't know you didn't
know), and it lets the participant get comfortable rather than just
jumping right in with a "test".

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