How A Complete Novice Learned User Testing In 10 Minutes

How A Complete Novice Learned User Testing In 10 Minutes


Here’s an actual email I sent to help a colleague who needed to do some user testing but had no experience in doing so and didn’t know where to start.

The results were phenomenal. From that one email, she was able to pull together a ton of insights and give feedback to the development agency that resulted in significant usability improvements.

Becoming a confident, competent UX designer isn’t something that can be taught in 10 minutes. However, conducting a user test is. And user testing is a technique that always delivers useful information about how usable a web or mobile app is (or isn’t).

The best part? Anyone can conduct a user test, without any experience at all. Here’s an example from a real project that proves it.

An employee at one of my consulting clients—let’s call her Sarah—called me up recently, asking for help.

An agency is building us an app, and they’ve given us a prototype to test for usability. I have three days, starting today. Can you help?”

Now normally I’d volunteer to conduct the user testing for the client. But in this instance I had immediate obligations to other clients, so wasn’t able to help. Instead, I told her I would pen some instructions, and sent the following email (details changed to protect client confidentiality).

What happened as a result of her reading this one email was amazing. I wanted to share it with you:

When I visited the client the following Tuesday, Sarah was sitting at her desk, looking relaxed. What I’d suggested to her was an ambitious timeframe, so I wondered whether she’d abandoned my advice. I asked how it went.

“Oh, I’m all finished. The sessions went well, and I’m just writing up my findings now. It was kind of fun!”

Awesome stuff. Not only had I empowered her to schedule, conduct, and report on the user testing sessions by herself, she had enjoyed it and is now likely to become an evangelist for involving users in projects at her company. Sure, there were a heap of assumptions made about the target demographic, the participants were staff members with a possibly skewed attitude towards the company and its app, and ideally the project would be structured differently in order to get user involvement throughout every stage and instil a more user-centric culture into the organisation.

However, given the timeframes—what a great outcome! I think this was a perfect example of making the most of a time-poor, small-budget approach to UX. It also demonstrates that there’s really no excuse not to do at least some basic user testing of your websites and apps.

Want to learn more about user testing? I can strongly recommend Steve Krug’s books as essential reading: Don’t Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy. They’re both short, easy, fun reads!

Written by
Matthew Magain
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  • Hi Matthew,

    I stumbled upon your site and 5min into browsing around and a few dozen downloads later, I’m in awe about how generous you are with your tips and all the great resources. Thank you so much for the great job and for sharing your knowledge and experience. Really good stuff!


  • I think this information might be somewhat valuable to beginners in the UX field. However, why is it so badly “designed”, or I should say not designed at all? Things all over the page, little cartoons sprinkled everywhere (what for?), popup box annoying the user, very hard to read this material. Speaking of User Experience, this is not a good example. Too bad, because the actual content seems interesting. My advise: get a good designer to redo the site.

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