Usability testing has a long history. In its early form, it was conducted with many individual participants much like traditional research experiments. With the advent of discount usability engineering techniques, fewer participants were required (5-7 versus 30-50) and protocols were simplified. The evolution from “many to few” in usability testing has become the standard in formative testing. What is the next tool in our toolbox?
This paper introduces a formative method called “group usability testing.” It involves several to many participants individually, but simultaneously, performing tasks, with one to several testers observing and interacting with participants. The idea for group usability testing arose as an answer to limited time resources and the availability of many users gathered together in one place. The approach is described via a case study. Data characteristics, benefits and drawbacks of group usability testing are discussed. Additionally it is compared/contrasted with individual usability testing, co-discovery, task-based focus groups, and cooperative usability testing.
Practitioner’s Take Away
- Group usability testing involves several to many participants individually, but simultaneously, performing tasks, with one to several testers observing and interacting with participants. The interaction style between tester/participant is a minimal version of the active intervention method.
- Group usability testing supports testing with several to many users, but in much less time than individual testing.
- If you can take advantage of a gathering of a large number of users, consider group usability testing.
- If you need usability data from more than a small number of users, consider group usability testing.
- If you have limited time and/or access to users, consider group usability testing.
- Use group usability testing if tasks are relatively simple and you are looking for major usability issues, not when users must perform complex tasks or when you are looking for low to medium usability issues.
- Use observations and results from group usbility testing to drive facilitated follow-on discussions with users.
- Group usability testing followed by a focused discussion supports the evolution towards cooperative and more collaborative design and evaluation techniques.