User testing

Finger pointing at computer screenUser testing (also called diagnostic usability testing) is a specific method of finding out whether a piece of consumer health information is doing its job well, and improving it, before publication.

User testing is now a European legal requirement for all Package Leaflets (PLs) provided with licensed medicines – and all such leaflets must demonstrate to the regulators that they meet certain standards when it comes to patients navigating the information and understanding its contents.    But user testing can be very effective for improving all kinds of consumer health information – from booklets and leaflets to web-based information and videos.

Three important things to know about user testing:

User testing is designed to test the ‘finished’ information product – so the time to test is when you have a fully designed version of your information mocked up.   It’s important that you have a version available which reflects, for example, final fonts, colours and paper weight or, in the case of a web-based resource, navigation, layout and so on.

User testing is an iterative process whereby you make improvements to your information and test it again to see whether they have ‘worked’ – so you need to test at a stage whereby you can still make changes to your product.

During user testing, you observe people using the information in situations as close as possible to real life.   So it’s not just about asking people what they think of the information (although that’s part of it) but about setting them specific challenges to find certain pieces of information, and observing whether and how they succeed in doing this.

Two key benefits for the patient are:

  • Improved understanding of the information provided.
  • Ability to make better informed decisions and act upon them.

The 6 steps to User Testing

People testing a websiteStep 1:  Decide who to test the information with
Write a clear protocol at the outset for selecting your test participants, and choose people who represent the target audience for your information.  How many people you are able to test the information with depends on the budget and time you have available – but you will need to allow at least half an hour for each user test.

Step 2:  Develop your test questions
Before carrying out your test, identify the most important information which you would want people to be able to find and act on from your information. Take the top 10-15 issues, and turn these into action oriented questions.

Step 3:  Recruit participants

Step 4:  Run the test
As you ask each question, observe and write down both what participants do (how they search through the document or website) as well as what they say.

Step 5:  Decide on your recommendations and implement them
Consider carefully how you might want to change your information to respond to user feedback and to solve issues which you identified about the ease of use of your information.

Step 6:  Test again

Top Tips

  1. Thumbs-upTry to use the appropriate people in testing – ie. The right age / sex, etc.
  2. Try not to use the same people for multiple testing
  3. Recruit participants from wherever is most relevant and practical.  For example you could use:
    • older people’s lunch clubs
    • self-help groups
    • patient support groups
    • community centres
    • parent and toddler groups
  4. Only a small sample of people is needed, 5 people will be sufficient
  5. User testing is designed to test the ‘finished’ information product – so the time to test is when you have a fully designed version of your information mocked up.
Page last updated: 19/11/12