Full day training course offered at The UX Conference Las Vegas

Usability Testing

Do-it-yourself user tests: Plan, conduct, and analyze your own studies, using in-person, remote, or online methods

Course Date: December 03, 2012

Watching users try to accomplish tasks on your site is the most effective and efficient way to uncover usability problems. This course will empower you to conduct quick and cheap usability tests throughout the project lifecycle, without having to set up an official lab. Learn the benefits of traditional user testing techniques and online testing tools. You will learn how to facilitate sessions, develop test plans, analyze data, and present the findings.

This course is ideal for people who are new to user testing or have some user testing experience, but no formal training.

"Nuts and bolts information about how to perform user testing will be extremely valuable in our redesign process."

James Kreuziger
University of California, Irvine

Topics Covered

Topics Covered

  • Step-by-step instruction on how to conduct your own usability studies
  • Why watching users attempt activities is better than interviewing them about their behavior
  • Differences between quantitative and qualitative studies, and when to conduct them
  • Discount usability testing: Is 4-6 participants enough?
  • Benefit of spreading budget across multiple small studies through iterative design
  • Measuring and tracking usability
    • Can new users quickly use the system?
    • How fast can users accomplish tasks?
    • Do people have re-learn how to use the system the second time they use it?
    • Where and when do users encounter errors?
  • Subjective satisfaction through post-task questionnaire
  • Determining scope of study, what to test and observe
  • Why you're ready to test now; testing at every stage of the project lifecycle
  • Targeting the right participant for your study
    • Identifying target users
    • Developing recruitment screeners
    • Recruiting agencies can be expensive, but efficient
    • Payment and incentives
  • Recruiting participants anywhere
    • Finding your own
    • Hiring market research firms
    • Using panels
    • Intercepting users from your site
    • International testing
  • Usability labs and setup
    • Formal vs. informal labs
    • Benefit of moderated in-person testing
    • Testing mobile devices
    • Writing a test plan
    • Tools for screen-sharing and recording
  • Online and remote user testing
    • Get same-day user feedback on your design
    • Increase your whole team's understanding about user behavior with your design
    • Setting up un-moderated studies where the participants complete tasks on their own
    • Applying remote testing for Lean UX
    • Optimizing time for short (15 minutes or less) un-moderated sessions
    • Moderating sessions while on the phone with the participant
    • Using online tools for rapid prototyping and iterative design
  • Recording usability sessions
    • How to take notes while facilitating
    • What observations to look for and record
    • Tools and techniques for video recording and note taking
  • Writing tasks (scenarios) to avoid bias and get the feedback you need
    • Exploratory tasks are open-ended and more research oriented
    • Directed tasks are specific and answer-oriented
    • Presenting tasks at the right time and order
    • Writing guidelines for tasks
  • Running sessions
    • Prepare participant when they arrive
    • Techniques for getting participants to think aloud and provide valuable feedback
    • Practice staying neutral and giving subtle acknowledgments
    • Reading non-verbal cues
    • Managing challenging situations
    • What to capture when taking notes
    • Note-taking tips and tools
  • Don't plan or test in isolation
    • Invite observers to watch sessions and take notes
    • How to debrief observers
  • Analyzing findings
    • Techniques for quick turn-around times
    • Use quantitative data to locate issues
    • Determine severity of each finding
    • Common analysis mistakes
    • Providing design recommendations
  • Reporting usability findings
    • Items to include in reports
    • Informal and formal reports
  • Presenting findings
    • Effective ways to communicate recommendations
    • Persuasive illustrations and videos

Free Material With Course Attendance

Free Material With Course Attendance



You will practice planning, conducting, and analyzing  your own usability study during this workshop and receive immediate expert feedback. Lecture segments introduce topics and techniques.

This course also includes:

  • A live demonstration of usability testing
  • Videos depicting what to do and what not to do
  • Hands-on exercises practicing task writing, facilitation, note taking, and analyzing findings

Participant Comments

Participant Comments

"This class takes the scariness our of user testing. It emphasizes "learning by doing" which helps ingrain user testing knowledge really well. Great instructor too — great at keeping us awake with interactive examples and posing questions."

Sydney Ratzlaff, Emergency Reporting

"It's a lot of information in a short amount of time — but very worth while."

Richard Merrick, UI/UX Designer

"I thought the mix of lecture and hands-on activities was very well balanced. She was good at making people feel comfortable participating. The material was interesting and clearly presented. I especially liked the use of the video clips. Also, the class size was perfect!"


"I learned so much from the day. Small changes I can make to our current usability testing which will make a big difference to our products."

Paul O'Leary, Asavie

"Fantastic course… as the business solution owner, I'm in charge of testing during development. This class gave me the complete playbook, including hacks, watch outs, and true rationale for a sound approach."


"Great insight into how usability test should be conducted. Very informative and very well presented."

Bojan Gospavic, Stryker

"This is a great crash course in usability testing. As a researcher who has been doing usability testing of my own for a few years it stood as a good reminder of basic principles and introduced a few new tips and tricks."

Paige Brannon, Career Builder

"I have taught myself how to do usability testing. This course helped to identify problems with my approach and reinforce the areas where I'm getting it right."

Brooke Fletcher, Shelter Insurance

"This was a great class. I appreciated the breadth of knowledge and best practices relayed. The instructor is an excellent speaker and engaged the class which greatly facilitated learning and made the class fun!"

Rey Echevarria, American Hospital Assoc.

"Great mix of theory/research and actual usable techniques for administering UX testing."

Cindy Wildish Rasmussen, MCIS, Inc.

"A lot of great techniques on how to better personal skills of usability research, either observer, notetaker, or moderator."

Daniel Hirst, NuSkin

"This is exactly what I was hoping for. Great information."

John Nance, Amazon, Woot.com

"Course was great — I especially liked how Kara touched on solutions to conduct testing track insights and solution. This really elevated the course from "instructional" to "actionable"."

Morgan Lacy, Shark Ninja

"The interactive level is perfect. The storytelling & video helped illustrate best practices."

Helen Fernety, Dillards

"One of my favorite courses of the entire week. Kara challenges everyone from novice to advanced usability testers to expand their horizons and not only learn from her but from your peers."

Tiana, Washington, DC

"Kara was very helpful and accepting of questions about Usability Testing. I liked how interactive she made the sessions down to facilitating a session and taking notes. I learned a lot of new things to use in my practice."

Daphne Adebayo, Career Builder

"Excellent content and instruction. Hoa is FANTASTIC, gave us "real world" scenarios."

Jennifer Fletcher, Pacific Dental Services

"I liked the progression of the exercises and how we tried them together. I learned a lot from Kara's real world examples and really strengthened my knowledge. I'll be taking some of the tips and techniques I learned and using them right away."

Michelle Larsen, Aquas, Inc.



Janelle Estes

Janelle Estes is a Senior User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. Estes works with clients in a variety of industries and presents regularly about usability methods, email newsletters, writing for the Web, and the user experience of nonprofit websites. She has been the primary researcher on and co-author of NN/g reports covering email newsletter design, ecommerce communications, non-profit and charity websites, senior users and and social media messaging. Read more about Janelle

Course Date: December 03, 2012

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