- It's incredibly hard to moderate usability sessions well. It requires a combination of patience, empathy, professionalism, and relationship building that only comes with practice. On top of that, you must also be a good observer, recording participants' actions and thinking ahead so you know how you'll deal with their next moves. My best advice to you as you start moderating is to be humble. Create a relationship where you play the role of apprentice to the participant.
This has several advantages. It immediately creates a respectful environment, rather than an evaluative one. It also forces you to be observant and patient. The participant is the master, after all. And empathetic, because you're really trying to put yourself in their shoes and learn from them. When you're the developer of a system that you think is the best thing in the world, it's hard to be humble. It's easy to see participants as stupid if they don't understand something or lacking in taste if they tell you that your interface isn't satisfying to use.
However, once you get past your initial pride, watching how participants behave with your interface will give you amazing insights into how to make your product truly useful and turn it into something that truly is the best thing in the world for the people who use it. My other suggestion is to not be nervous. That's easy to say and hard to do. When you start out as a moderator, you'll be playing a role that's new to you. If you're nervous, your nervousness will spread to your participant because they won't trust that you know what you're doing.
There's only one way to reduce nervousness and that's through practice. That's why you run pilot studies so that you've practiced what you'll be doing in advance. I'd encourage you to use a written script for much of your interaction with your participants. This way, you make sure that you aren't introducing bias just with the words you use or with the variation between what you tell one participant and the next. For instance, if you tell one person that you're looking for their feedback, but tell another that you're running a test, they might have different impressions of what they've let themselves in for and respond differently to you.
We've included an example moderator script in the course exercise files. The key points that we want to get across to participants are that the study isn't a test of them, but instead they're helping us to test the product, that their involvement is voluntary, that they can stop at any time, that they should not feel obliged to perform a task that they don't want to or give personal information to us, and most importantly, that we're very thankful to them for giving us their time.
By using a combination of dry run sessions, written, scripted interactions, and a humble, apprentice-like attitude, you'll go a long way towards putting your participants at ease. Once they're relaxed, they'll work more naturally and you'll see their true behaviors. That way you'll gain better insights into what it is that you need to fix to make them truly happy with your product.
- What is usability testing?
- Finding the right participants
- Making a screener
- Asking the right questions
- Avoiding bias
- Making a task list
- Creating the test environment
- Running a pilot study
- Moderating sessions
- Capturing real-time observations
- Analyzing and reporting your results