Keep calm, and do it yourself — An easy guide to run a usability testing session

Keep calm, and do it yourself — An easy guide to run a usability testing session

Or 9 simple steps to start testing your product right now!


Easier than you think, usability sessions are not implemented in all organisations. How many times have you said to yourself:

“I want my product to be more user centric”

“I need to run some test to prove them wrong!”

“How long this meeting will last? — This feature is not what users need!”


For a quick start, you just need time, material, internet and a room. You will find in the following steps all the principles and tips to run a successful usability testing session.

Version en français de cet article

Summary of this article


  1. Setup your users personas
  2. Create job stories
  3. Make checklists
  4. Grab some material
  5. Do a crash test before the “T” day
  6. Create a document to help others run the test
  7. Recruit people outside the project
  8. It’s all about test and learn
  9. Live is more valuable than a summary


1- Setup your users personas


Grab a few data from your metrics, try to find out very quickly who your main users are. Create rapid personas based on the main task of your application. You don’t need to be specific on the details, it’s hard to find a perfectpersona.

Think of this personas as the assumptions of your users. These assumptions will evolve with your product and on your road of usability testing. Plus, your real users will switch between different types of personas, so you don’t want to spend all of your time, validating a moving pattern.


2- Create job stories


Personas will help you to define your job stories. Think of this as tasks you need your users to achieve. In our case, for example, the iOS and Android news app from franceinfo, a sample job story would be…

When I read the news feed,

I want to see the news of the day,

 so I can keep myself informed in real time


This example is a really big task from the “Live feed” persona. If I have also some “Share” buttons I can add this task also and my job would be more specific.


3- Make checklists


Begin 3 weeks before the “T” day (T for “testing”😜). Here are some examples :

Week 3 before “T” day :

  • Make sure you have the perfect room
  • Validate your personas
  • Validate your job stories

Week 2 before “T” day :

  • Send first email campaign to recruit first users
  • Hold the first meeting with the test organisation team
  • Make sure you have all the material, goodies, devices…

Week of the “T” day :

  • Send an email confirmation to your users
  • Pick-up the last goodies
  • Make sure coffee, tea and water are available
  • Do a crash test !


4- Grab some material


Of course you need equipment, nothing hard to find: a laptop, devices and a hard drive.

Example for our testing session considering our main parc of devices by user:

  • Mac book pro 💻
  • Android S7 📱
  • iPhone 6 📱
  • Cables ⚡️
  • App power mirror — To stream Android
  • Quick time — To stream iPhone and record
  • Photo boot — To show user face and interactions


Example of the setup of the room.


It’s also important to have rewards for your users. Depending on which company you are working for, your users might be glad to help you for free! But if you have something to give them, this would be a great surprise, and their brand experience would be reinforced.


5- Do a crash test before the “T” day


It’s important to test your devices and your setup before the “T” day. If you’re working with users outside your organisation you don’t want things to get messy while they’re here.

Ask co-workers if they know someone available to run for the first time your scenarios.


If you need technical setup you will be glad to say, “Ok, it’s normal, you’re here for that, so let’s check that again”! This can be added to your checklist on last week. FYI, we run this crash test in the morning of “T” day. 😜


6- Create a document to help others run the test


This document will contain all information required to run the test from the beginning to the end. Make sure you’ll put all mandatory information:

  • Time schedule.
  • Location
  • Introduction text
  •  Questions
  • Last but not least, what to say in case your users are stuck in a task.


Example of the document to help others run the test and some posters to find the test room for the new participants.


7- Recruit people outside the project


For the record, we use an internal database of users that agreed to be contacted. That could come from options for instance. The emailing campaign contained some questions:

  • Did you know the application? Yes / No
  • What OS do you own? Android / iOS
  • How often do you use the application?

These questions help us to choose between people who never use the application and people who are really into it. From the 9 people, we found to test it, we chose 3 that never used the application. Considering that 5 is your “perfect” number.


8- It’s all about test and learn


To run and animate the test you need practice. At the beginning, you will find this very difficult but from time to time, you will understand when to ask questions and when to be silent and let the user try by himself.

At the end you will develop a strange feeling with the users and your guestusability test techniques will be bulletproof.


You may also think everything needs to be perfect for the “T” day, a few elements need to be ready, of course, but you must be aware that maybe somebody will not show up, or will not respond as you expected. You need to learn how to improvise, just like a jazz musician! 🎷

Don’t blame yourself, just keep in mind that everything has a solution, don’t panic, keep calm and try to solve the problem on the go.


9- Live is more valuable than a summary


The final point of this post… try to stream your test session! People would be more receptive if they know that it happens live! In our case, we used Slack and the video streaming in one channel we created especially for the testing sessions.

We gathered around 45 people from different teams! From the comfort of their desks and were able to watch, listen and as a bonus … ask live questions!!! Don’t forget to tell them to cut their microphones. 🎤🚫




As promised nothing too complicated, don’t you think? With the communication we made around this unique “Live broadcast”, people inside the company are now more invested in the product. With the Slack room created we can now communicate all the information about the team and our release plan.

Don’t forget to ask for help around you in the workplace, you will be surprised how many people would be glad to give you a hand.

Now you’re ready to solve most of your usability problems and start again!😁

Some sources : Advanced common sensJob storiesDesign thinkingLean UX , Test with 5 usersDesign d’expérience utilisateurThe elements of user experience

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