Meditating on Moderating

This week I conducted a usability test (recorded for study) and I learned a few things about myself along the way.

1.  Moderating (hosting) a usability test can be a bit nerve-racking for both the test participant and the moderator.  This showed up, at lest to me, in the speed of my talking in the intro, and my volume. (Apparently I speak loud and fast when nervous) Oddly I don’t think this is because of public speaking as the test taker is a friend I’ve known for years.  I think for me it was more of a new process, with a canned script.  When reading aloud (even something I’ve read many times before) I always get nervous I’m going to mess it up.  Guess I should practice reading for audiences a bit more to help overcome this trait.

2.  Probe for more in-depth answers when possible.  Yes or no answers are fine and all, but they don’t really get to the heart of any usability problems that may be occurring.  Personally I don’t think I asked enough follow up questions.  The information the participant shared did answer the task questions, as written, but I don’t think they really got much useful feedback when the (admittedly few) problems did occur.  I need to be better prepared with follow up questions for each task in the future.

3. Be prepared for the distractions of life.  We’ve all been doing something intently focused and really in the zone to get things done, and the phone rings, or the cat pounces you, or the dog decides that now is the time to go out for a walk, ________ feel free to insert your most common distraction into this list.  My distraction in this process was to not laugh out loud at the antics her family members were trying to use to distract us from just off camera view.  At least we all had a great sense of humor about the whole process.  So I guess this leads to two ideas…first: when possible use a more controlled environment than someones living room, second: always be prepared for distractions…they will occur.

To answer some specific questions for my class:

  • What happened during your session that surprised you?   =  See #3
  • Where you better or worse than you thought you would be? =  About where I thought I’d be, but I see room for improvement.
  • Where you able to remain unbiased?  =  I think I did pretty good at this…we’ll see what my group thinks later.
  • Did you let the participant speak?  =  Yes…possibly didn’t prompt enough for more though.

All in all this was a fun assignment, and a useful experience.


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