Post-it Power

User testing post-it note displayWhen I am involved in face-to-face usability tests, I like to type up my observations during the test session, whenever possible. The most important points end up in a post-it note display; something that can be discussed with developers.

Admittedly, typing up notes is a lot easier if I am an observer, rather than the facilitator. In the latter case, I would aim to only note down issues that seem particularly pertinent.

When I helped Jenny Cham with usability tests she was running in Sweden earlier this year, I was an observer, so had the luxury of being able to type and not have to talk!

Just the facts

Once we were back at the EBI, I started to reduce my notes down to the key points, and to keep them as bite-size as possible (more digestible for the developers… ) I reduced them to something I could fit on a post-it note, which means it has to be pithy.

Detail of clustered post-its from user testing sessionsI also favour colour-coding these notes… for me, red post-its signify problems – direct observations of usability issues; green ones are positive comments from a participant; yellow ones are just interesting participant comments; orange ones are my own comments or recommendations.

All the post-its are stuck to a wall, and then I begin to group or categorise them according in ways that are relevant to the project – so it might be “Search interface”, “Navigation menu”, “Log in”, etc. Chunking the issues and points in this way makes it easier to discuss them. There’s no effort to prioritise at this stage, but the post-its can obviously be reused for something like a paired comparison exercise.

A friend of mine who works on data visualization pointed out that this is classic clustering and heatmapping. Step back from the display, screw your eyes up a bit, and it’s a data visualization.

Huh. Who’d have thought?  🙂

The key thing is that busy developer or project manager can look at this display, and quickly see which areas have generated the most comments and issues; which of those areas has a concentration of usability issues; they are not presented with an overload of information.

This seems to work pretty well so far!


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