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User Observation Testing: Forms and Procedures for an Information-Driven Web Sites (31 Aug 2004)
Subjects were asked to sit in front of a computer monitor displaying the Home Page of the Web site being tested.

They were given a list of ten site task assignments. The test administrator read each assignment to the subject, prior to the subject performing the task; to be sure he understood what to do. When the administrator said, "Go," a stopwatch was activated and the task performance was timed to one hundredth of a second.

Video recording of the testing is recommended, but was not available in this case. The administrator took notes on how the subject attempted to accomplish each task, what links were followed, what navigation tools were utilized, and what comments were made.

When it was apparent that a subject was exasperated and would not be able to complete a task, the administrator said, "Give up? That's okay. This one's a tough one. Here's how you can find this." Test subjects were shown a site path leading to the information.

The administrator engaged in silent, non-invasive observation. No assistance was given, but, to keep the test from being emotionally cold and inhuman, friendly comments were made, such as: "It probably should have its own link on the Home Page" or "That's good thinking, but the site regretfully wasn't designed that way."

One test subject pulled the monitor closer to him due to his poor vision. Another was a bit awkward with the mouse; he kept clicking the right click mechanism or pushing down on the mouse wheel, thereby activating unexpected functions. In this case, the administrator intervened, informing the subject of his operational errors.
Article URL: http://www.stcsig.org/usability/newsletter/0408-user-observation.html

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