Working with Test Participants

User testing should support inclusive design. We do user testing to ensure technology supports the full range of diverse human abilities. This section describes best practices for working with people who have volunteered to be test participants. It explains and connects resources about inclusion, consent agreements, anonymization, and publishing results.

Pointers for Facilitators

Facilitators play an important role in explaining the test beforehand, walking through the test with the participant, and taking notes for analysis.

Prior to your testing, you should follow your institution’s policy for working with human subjects; usually called the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

  • Always get consent from a test participant.
  • Have a data protection plan for personal identifying information. This includes personal names, identification numbers, email addresses, telephone numbers, or birth dates.
  • If during testing a participant decides to not complete a test, that’s okay.
  • Help test participants understand that they are helping us.
  • Stick to the time limits for each activity.
  • Make sure to ask participants to think aloud while completing test activities. This helps note-takers understand participants’ thoughts as they occur and as they attempt to work through issues they encounter. It will also elicit real-time feedback and emotional responses that are important for knowing if an interface works or doesn’t.
  • Take good notes: capture as much detail as possible. Record what they say out loud as they move through the tasks. This will help with analysis later.
  • Capture subjective metrics you notice during the test.
  • Be neutral during a test. Simply watch and listen to participants. When they ask a question, reply with “What do you think you would do?” or “I’m more interested to know what you think or would do.”
  • Don’t jump in and help. This will bias the results. If someone wants help, either reassure them that they can’t make any mistakes, or end the task and move on to the next one.

Respectful Interactions & Understanding Participants

  • About Users: Overview
    University of Cambridge’s Inclusive Design Toolkit: About Users section is resource that focuses on understanding different types of user capabilities and how they affect product interaction in general.
  • Inclusive design toolkit by the Government of Ontario
    The Canadian province of Ontario has created an inclusive design toolkit to respectfully work with people who have different accessibility needs. Their inclusion design cards can help you identify interactions and processes for how to be respectful to people of all types of abilities.