5 Guidelines for Agile Usability Testing

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Awhile ago, I worked with one of the largest companies in terms of market capitalization in Southeast Asia. One of my roles there was to redesign one of their digital products and coach their team to conduct usability testing.

A senior manager who participated in the redesign process happened to have concluded an Agile’s Scrum training delivered by a professional Scrum trainer. Therefore, I engaged him in a discussion on how to integrate Usability Testing in their new “Agile” design and development process. Surprisingly enough, the manager did not have any clue about Usability Testing. It seems that usability testing was not a default part of his learning on Agile and Scrum. Furthermore, when I started to talk about integrating Usability Testing in their sprint cycles, the manager said their team was not ready.

As a matter of fact, there were tens of other corporate teams that similarly do not know how to conduct Agile Usability Testing properly.

Luckily, while conducting Agile Usability Testing requires skills and knowledge mostly gained through experience, there are guidelines that can help your Agile Usability Testing journey.

1. Self Light-weight Documentation

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Due to the rapid and frequent iterations in an Agile process, team members participating in the process should be able to observe and self-document a usability testing session effectively. The documentation produced should be concise, communicative, and lightweight. Some examples include: One idea per post-it note, sketches, and palm cards.

2. Communicate Well

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Each team member participating in an Agile Usability Testing should be a good or excellent communicator. Due to short and rapid iterations, good internal communication is essential to get the results of usability testing translated into actionable insights within a short period of time. Prevent communication to become an issue that holds a team back by ensuring that each member can communicate easily with each other.

3. Revolution, Not Evolution

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The prototypes tested in Agile Usability Testing may range from abstract, low fidelity, mid-fidelity, to high-fidelity prototypes. Independent from the initial stage of a prototype, team members should agree to move up one level within an agreed number of few iterations, until a validated high-fidelity prototype is achieved.

4. What Users Wish May Not Be What Users Need

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Note what a user expresses as wishes, needs and problems. Understand the context and reasons behind wishes, needs and problems with ligth-weight inquiry methods. Observe and relate what one says with what one does in a testing session. Use only the consistent ones as inputs, and ignore the inconsistent ones — at least for an immediate iteration. Keep notes of inconsistencies for later analysis of meta pattern.

5. Expect Intense Participation

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Due to expectations to deliver high quality outcomes within a short period of time, ensure that each team member agrees to participate without distraction. Formalize commitment and expectations of each team member before engagement. Depending on situation, it is advisable to reserve a “war room” to be used by the team throughout the sessions.

What is your experience in conducting your own Agile Usability Testing? Share yours!

Written by

As a Google Mentor and Certified Design Sprint Master, Josh has a passion for the design, development, and use of ICT in solving business and humanity problems

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