How to Maximize Insights in User Testing: Stepped User Tasks

Summary: You can learn the right kind of things and much more in user tests if you start with broad tasks instead of immediately leading to areas of interest. Prepare additional, focused tasks that can be used to direct users.

When writing usability-testing tasks, you must walk the thin line between telling users too much and too little. Too often usability tasks direct users straight to the site area in which the team is interested, whether it’s a redesigned website or a new piece of content. This approach will usually reap some information about the feature’s usability, but it leaves on the table the potential to learn about the important topics of discoverability and findability. It’s also the reason why some companies are doing lots of testing but still producing unhelpful designs. You can learn more if you start users off with broad instructions before directing them to what you are interested in. Prepare directed tasks that target your points of interest, but give them to participants only if the broad tasks don’t give you the insights that you need.

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