Usability Testing

Resources to recruit and guide participants in order to test and measure tasks on a prototype product

This was collated by Erin Richey at Known:

The documentation is released under a CC0 license:


  • Between 5 and 8 people is a good number to aim for when you're conducting a quick set of usability sessions

  • Schedule more people than you need to talk to. There's usually at least one person who forgets and runs into scheduling conflicts.

  • You may need to recruit from an existing user email list, from social networks, from family and friends, or from other interest groups.

  • If you're providing compensation of some sort, things like Amazon gift cards, prepaid debit cards, and Starbucks cards can be sent digitally.

  • If you're providing some form of compensation or reward in person, you may consider food (free lunch!), coffee/beverages, company swag, or checks ($$) as options.

Game Plan

  • If you're doing the usability session in person, you'll need a computer or mobile device to conduct the test on, and you'll need a way to record the screen.

  • If you're doing the usability session remotely, you'll need a screensharing program that (ideally) allows you to record the session.

  • You'll need a prototype or live product to test.

  • Based on the questions you're trying to answer, develop a list of tasks for the participant to complete.

  • To recruit participants, create a screener survey that you can post online or send around. Be sure to gather contact info, and follow up with anyone who you'd like to schedule for a session.

  • Send a confirmation email to everyone you want to schedule telling them their session time and explaining how they can join the session (if it's a remote session with a screenshare) or where your test will be located (if you're doing it in person).

  • Prepare your tasks and any additional questions you want to ask along the way.

  • Ideally get at least two people involved to help with the session: one person to moderate and provide the tasks and one person to take notes.

  • In a perfect world, the developers and designers who will be making changes to the prototype are watching the sessions (remotely or in person).

  • Prepare your software or programs for screensharing and recording.

  • Take time after the sessions to debrief and list out high-level thoughts and friction points the participant experienced.


  • With quick rounds of usability testing, you can pull a whole session together in a week if the prototype is ready to go.

  • Be sure you know what software you're going to use for recording and/or screensharing before you get started. You may need to test several options.

  • Once you have your recruitment survey, allow between a few days to a week to recruit and schedule people.

  • During this time you can be writing your tasks.

  • Ideally, you can schedule your sessions together in blocks.

  • If you expect to spend 30 minutes doing a usability session, leave yourself a window of 45 minute to an hour before the next session starts. You may need this time to reset the equipment or prototype in preparation for the next participant.

Email to Confirm Participation

[Name of your usability study] [Date and time of participant appointment]

Hi [participant name],

Thank you for your interest in participating in our usability study. We have scheduled you for the following date and time:

[Appointment date] [Appointment time]

The study will be conducted via web conference. You will need a working web camera, microphone, and speakers on your computer in order to participate. We also ask that you sit in a space that is reasonably quiet and free from distractions during the study. Please make sure that you're comfortable with your speaker or headphone setup before joining the session.

To ensure that you’re fully prepared for your session, please complete these final steps:

[Steps to set up your web conference or screen sharing software.]

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.



(For more examples of consent forms – for use with minors, recording, etc – see the resources at

Please read and sign this form.

During this user test I agree to participate in an online session using my computer, including its web camera, microphone, and speakers. During the session I will be interviewed about [gerbils], asked to find information or complete tasks using [your pet gerbil], and asked to complete questions about the experience.

I understand and consent to the use and release of the recording by [full organization name]. (“[organization short name]”). I understand that the information and recording are for research purposes only and that my name and image will not be used for any other purpose. I relinquish any rights to the recording and understand the recording may be copied and used by [organization short name] without further permission.

I understand that participation is voluntary and I agree to immediately raise any concerns I might have.

If you have any questions after today, please contact [your personal name] ([your email address]).

Please sign below to indicate that you have read and understand the information on this form and that any questions you might have about the session have been answered.


Please print your name:

Please sign your name:

Please include your mailing address (this is where we'll send your compensation):

(Street Address)

(City, State / Region, Postal Code, Country)

Moderator's script for usability testing

Hi, [participant name]. My name is [your name], and I'm going to be walking you through the usability session today.

Before we get started, I just want to go over a little bit of information with you.

Let me explain why we've asked you to participate today. We're testing [a product type (eg a website)] to see what it’s like for [user type (eg gerbil owners)] to use it.

I want to start by saying that we're testing [the product], not you. You can't do or say anything wrong, and nothing is going to hurt our feelings.

We want to hear exactly what you think so that we can improve the [product].

As you use the [product], I'm going to ask you to think out loud: to say what you’re looking at, what you’re trying to do, and what you’re thinking. This will really help us.

If you have questions, just ask. I may not be able to answer them right away, since we're interested in how people do when they don't have someone sitting next to them, but I will try to answer any questions you still have when we're done.

If you need to take a break at any point or you’d like to quit, just let me know. That’s perfectly OK.

Also, with your permission, I’d like to record this session. The video will only be used by us internally, and it will really help me with note-taking.

Is it all right if I turn on the conference recording?

(Get permission from participant. If they decline, continue the session without the recording on.)


Ok, before we get started do you have any questions for me?

(Answer any questions.)

Okay. Now I’m going to read you the instructions for today’s session.


During the session today, I'm going to read you some tasks. Approach these tasks as if you were sitting alone at work or home.

As you work, please do the following:

  • Remember to think out loud. Talk about what you are thinking, doing, experiencing, and expecting.

  • Whenever you have a question or comment, please state it! You can say anything you want - positive or negative.

Ok. We're almost ready to go. Before we begin, we have a few more questions to start things off.

Pre-task questions

A handful of questions that set the context for the user: how they'd describe their role, which products they currently use, and so on.


A series of atomic tasks that encourage the user to perform a single action with your product.

For example: sign up for a new account; complete a purchase; write a new post; share a particular object; find the library in the app.

For each task, you may choose to include some follow-up questions: "where would you look if you wanted to find X?" "How would you describe what this product / feature does?"

(Once the participant has tackled each of the tasks, finish up the session with a few final questions.)

Post-task questions

A handful of questions that summarize the user's experience. For example, what did they like most? What did they like least? How likely are they to recommend the product to friends or colleagues? If they could change one thing about the product, what would it be?


We're all done. Thank you so much for your time!

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