by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Although “hanging chads” from the 2000 Presidential election haven’t come into play since (thankfully), every year there’s some confusion about the proper way to cast votes. The challenge highlights what veteran well-being managers have known for years: people miss a lot, don’t read thoroughly, and often fail to ask for help when they’re unsure what to do next. These problems usually can be caught and corrected with simple usability tests.

Would Mom Get It?
The reality check we often use at HES for testing new materials, websites, or promotional tools is “Would Mom get it?” The idea is to see whether someone not typically exposed to the thing you’re testing would easily grasp what you want them to do.

It’s enormously instructive to ask someone who’s never logged physical activity to record it on a new online logging tool you’ve designed. You’ll find out within seconds if you’ve done a good job. What you won’t necessarily find is how to fix it. That usually requires another attempt and a new test — with new testers. Just as your programs and promotions should be straightforward, keep your usability testing simple. Some guidelines:

  • Break it into manageable parts. The smaller your test, the more likely you are to catch all the problems.

  • Use multiple testers. In most instances you’ll catch 85% of the problems with your first tester. But if you don’t confirm that single test there’s no way to be sure the results are valid. Use no fewer than 3 subjects in your tests — up to 5 if the results are even a little in question.

  • Test early and often. Don’t wait until you’ve completed a whole program or website. It’s easier and less expensive to test earlier in the design. It may seem like you’re delaying development, but you’ll save time in the long run by not having to redo multiple elements at the end.

  • Redesign, then test again. Small, early, and frequent tests will reveal weaknesses and may suggest some fixes. But you won’t know if your fixes worked until you test them.

  • Observe. You can learn a lot just by paying attention. Resist the temptation to give guidance or answers when testers get stuck. The more you solve for the tester, the more you leave open to question for yourself — which can nullify the whole testing process.

Usability testing isn’t a luxury; it’s required if you want to ensure great health promotion products and services. 

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