Reflection: Week #7 – Test Plans & Wrap-Up

This is my final post in the series of weekly reflections for my Interaction Design course.

For this last week in IxD at Kent State, we were asked to come up with a research plan for testing the prototype that we had created. Luckily for me, this is in my wheelhouse and I was excited to create something that would work for this project. To be honest, I am surprised I hadn’t written anything about this for my Usability I or Usability II courses, but now I get to share one of my favorite things to use for writing up a research plan.

The UX Research Plan That Stakeholders Love” is an article written by Tomer Sharon (formerly of Google, now at WeWork) that is also in a section of his book “It’s Our Research.” The general gist of the article is that the research planning process needs to work for everybody involved, which typically means a collaborative, clear, fast, and easily digestible plan. Plans are important because they allow you to both “get a feel for [your] stakeholders” and “engage [them]” while writing everything down to help clarify expectations. I won’t copy the entire article here, but at the basic level the plan includes these parts: Title, Authors, Version Date, Background, Goals, Research Questions, Methodology, Participants, and Script Placeholder.

I love this document/process. I’ve used this plan in multiple jobs, and it has been very effective for a couple of reasons. First, it creates an easy way to talk to stakeholders about research they may have requested in terms of the important question “what are we trying to learn?” Sometimes when stakeholders come to me for my expertise, they don’t have a clear sense of what they want to get out of the project. Creating one of these documents lays it out very clearly.

Next, the document acts as an education vehicle for what I do. Currently, I have stakeholders create these documents for me. Why? Because it makes them invested in the process and in the research that will be conducted. I send them that article, and give them a blank template with instructions for each of the 10 items on the plan. Once they send it back to me, I edit it and talk with them about their plan before moving forward. This conversation revolves around that important question, but also around the proper way to formulate goals, research questions, and when it’s the right time to choose a method (hint: I don’t let the stakeholders choose a method. In fact, I send them a “menu” of all the varieties of research methods to show them that not everything is suited for “usability testing”).

Finally, at the end of the research sessions, this document acts as a strawman to compare our results to; did we get answers to our research questions? Have or can we meet our research goals now? We set those items before even interacting with customers, so now we can go back and see if what we did gave us some clarity. If so, great! We move forward with changes to the interface and another round of research. If not, we can certainly try again and reconfigure to get the most useful feedback from our customers.

Well I guess that’s a wrap. I have one more course in the program, and it’s a Capstone Experience for creating a portfolio. I’m sure there will be a lot more content on the site through this final course, so stay tuned for that. Otherwise… I’m almost done. See you at commencement on August 20th!

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