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Frequently asked questions

If you're new to the experience of usability testing, you're bound to have questions.  These are the ones we hear most often.

We're happy to answer all of your questions, and we're sure that you will have more.  Contact us at

How many users does it take?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions! The simple answer is, it depends. But, more specifically, we recommend small studies with participants who represent the same type of user, so that results from a small sample can be realistically compared.

Our typical studies use 5 or 6 users: a pilot test to confirm the study elements (typically, the pilot data can be used), and 4 or 5 more users representing the specific user group we´re observing.

If you have budget for 15 to 20 users, we recommend recruiting several groups of users and creating scenarios that work for each user group. For example, with 18 users, you could get results from three different user groups. Or, you could conduct three separate studies during the development cycle for your product.

How do we get users for studies?

Unlike typical recruiting firms that have a database of frequent participants in focus groups and other market research studies, we customize and personalize our recruiting efforts by accessing our network of resources from business, industry, and academe. Using the user profile we create in our planning meeting, we identify the specific user group for each study, then personally recruit, screen, and secure the right participants to specifically match your real users.

Our user recruiting process is highly effective in contacting and contracting your specific, targeted users in a timely and cost-effective process that brings results. We recruit backups, so that you get the exact number of users you require for a study.  But you don't pay for backups, only for the users who actually participate in the study.

How do we plan a test?

Because we use a team approach to user testing, planning is the essential starting place. In a two-hour, well-run meeting, our team — composed of usability experts from the Usability Center and the key members of your organization — meets to establish all the essential elements for the usability test. These include setting goals, determining tasks (which become scenarios), creating post-task and post-test questionnaires, and creating the all-important user profile for recruiting the users from the specific subset(s) of the user population.

Whenever possible, this planning meeting is conducted in the Executive Viewing Room of the Usability Center @ Southern Polytechnic. However, when logistics make this difficult, we set up web-based conferencing capabilities for this meeting.

 Who makes up the team?

We use a team approach to user testing to assure that you get the test you want and the results you need. Our team comprises usability experts from the Usability Center and the key members of your organization. From our side, you can always count on the expertise of Dr. Carol Barnum, the center director and co-founder, who leads every study. She leads the team to develop the right testing plan and process from beginning to end. 

Your team members include one or more key stakeholders in the project. Your team can have up to four key stakeholders in the planning and testing phases of the study.

This combined group becomes the core team for the project.

What happens in the executive viewing room?

We have a really big Executive Viewing Room, and there's a good reason for it.

We encourage you to invite as many people as possible to see the action of a usability test from the Executive Viewing Room. In this room, members of your organization, not just executives, can directly observe the user during a test, see and hear what´s being recorded, and talk among yourselves about what you´re learning from users. A big board and flip charts are handy for taking notes, and WiFi helps you stay in touch with the office while you're between sessions.

Observers can come and go without disrupting the testing process. Debrief sessions can be held, informally or formally, to capture top reactions from the observers.

What are the test deliverables?

Test deliverables are typically, but not exclusively, the following:

  • All materials for each user—completed screener, pre-test questionnaire, post-task questionnaires, post-test questionnaire, Excel spreadsheet of study logs
  • DVD recording for each user session
  • Results of findings meeting—a list of top findings, positive and negative, following the last session
  • Report (executive summary)—describing the goals, users, scenarios, findings, and recommendations (within one week of study conclusion)

Other deliverables we can provide on request include:

  • 10-minute video highlights tape
  • Formal report with in-depth analysis of findings, including data from questionnaires, other feedback mechanisms, annotated screen captures, and more
  • Oral presentation/PowerPoint with video clips to company personnel to share findings more broadly or specifically

Is lab testing the only option?

While we love the capabilities of our 3-room usability center, we also can pack up and take our portable lab to you and set up wherever you like.  We've done in-town and out-of-town testing with our lab in a suitcase.

We've also done remote testing to reach users where they are.  Remote studies can be done in our lab with observers on site, or we can connect to users and observers in multiple locations.  We often combine remote and lab testing within the same studies, giving you the best of both worlds.

What other services do you provide besides testing?

Lab testing is only one of many options we provide to help you understand your users and their experience with your product or interface. A user-centered design process includes many elements, such as:

  • Site visits (contextual inquiry) to learn about your users, tasks, and environments as a basis for establishing requirements or planning what to test
  • Persona creation to develop specific profiles of your users
  • Expert review (heuristic evaluation) to inspect a product or interface against a set of rules or guidelines
  • Training to educate your staff on the benefits of a user-centered design process and to give them the tools to conduct user testing
  • Lab rental for experienced UX teams seeking an excellent facility for testing

How can benefits be measured?

ROI can be measured in a variety of ways, including a reduction in support calls, increased conversion rates, increased traffic to your website, and greater sales, to name just a few.