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How to select participants for usability testing

By Naomi Worden 20th September 2018

If you are thinking of doing a usability test on your website, then make sure you get the fundamentals right.  

How many people should you select to take part in the test?  Is it important that you pick the ‘right’ people?  And is more always better?

Usability testing is important for a number of reasons:

  • Usability testing validates what you already thought was wrong with your site
  • Usability testing tells you what site changes you should be making next
  • Usability testing allows you to make informed decisions, not just make guesses
  • Usability testing shows the world that you are serious about providing a good experience to your customers. Press release it!

Who should you choose?

Don’t get too hung up on selecting people from your target demographic.  This should never be the most important factor.  Think about it – a 40 year old man with no kids would encounter usability problems on a website aimed at new mothers, for example, in the same way as a new mother would!  Just because he wouldn’t necessarily use that site doesn’t matter – this isn’t a marketing exercise, it’s a usability test.

So, go out and grab family, friends, workmates and get them to take part.  It doesn’t even matter if some of them already use the site on a regular basis – they might have some great suggestions.  The only caveat to this piece of advice is that you should never use a member of the team who works on the website to test the website!

How many should you choose?

Steve Krug, author of ‘Don’t make me Think’, says you can get viable usability test results from as few as three people.  Jakob Nielson says that five should be the minimum.  Personally, we feel that you can get a well-rounded set of results from anywhere between six and ten.

The benefits of keeping a test relatively small are clear.  If you ever conduct usability testing on your own website, you will notice that in the first few tests, the same issues are coming up.  Each new person might find a couple of new issues, but generally, after the sixth test, you have pretty much captured everything you need, especially all of the high priority problems.

It also makes the process of reporting much simpler.  You are able to analyse, collate and write up the results far more easily – six sets of results are a lot easier to analyse than sixty!

SimpleClick, experts in the field of website design and user experience, are offering free 30-minute usability expert reviews – contact SimpleClick for more information.