Usability Lab Observers Note-taking Guide

Usability Lab Observers Collaborative Note-taking Guide

A quick and easy way to brief people attending usability testing sessions about how and what to observe/note. Posted here after a request for material on the UXPA (UK) Members Slack.

How I use it

I print a complete copy of the slide deck for the member of my team leading as Observation Room Facilitator. I then print the first slide (only) for each of the stakeholders who are observing the sessions. I occasionally refer the team back to the guide, as needed, between sessions.

Prioritising observations

I also print and use David Travis’s Red Route Usability Prioritisation Flowchart to help stakeholders think about the likely severity of any issues encountered during the study.

Thoughts, suggestions…

How does this compare to your note-taking guide/process? Have you used this guide in your user research, or do you have suggestions to make it better? Let me know in the comments.

Building a user-first culture

user research issue ranking

We ran summative usability tests for some critical user journey’s for the new UCL Undergraduate Prospectus student recruitment site. The penny dropped and future projects will include users’ from the start.

It’s an important project because the domain accounts for 23% of traffic to the UCL website and contributes significantly to the £326m / year in revenue from students.

Issue prioritisation

The super-useful red routes issue prioritisation flowchart is projected for reference…

user research issue summarisation
Post user research issue summarisation workshop. Normally I would run these with fewer participants, but stakeholder buy-in for user research was one of the main objectives.

Further reading

The Researcher is Present

Inner Judge by Tom Grillo
The Inner Judge by Tom Grillo
The Inner Judge by Tom Grillo

A nice graphic from a New York Times article — An Appeal to Our Inner Judge — about the innate ability of our unconscious mind to create bias, assumptions and profiling; particularly as applied to people.

Identifying and factoring for inherent prejudice is essential in many aspects of user experience work; perhaps when recruiting new team members, meeting new clients but especially when working with research participants.

I also like how this graphic illustrates how many cognitive activities, conscious or otherwise, are undertaken by a researcher as they facilitate experience design sessions, particularly how many variables can be brought into play during a seemingly simple one-to-one interaction like a interview, let alone something more complex like a focus group or usability test.

In both cases being aware of the unspoken influence your inner judge will positively affect your ability to reach better outcomes and decisions for your project.

User Centred Government, Notes

My favourite nuggets from Leisa Reichelt’s talk at HCID Open Day 2014, organised by City Interaction Lab.

Leisa was talking about about affecting good user-centred practices in large and complex organisations via her role at GDS. As usual she had lots of sensible, practical and plainly spoken advice for helping to stay focussed on collaborating to ship great experiences.


“User research closes distance”

— insightful and succinct way to remember and describe empathetic experience design practice.

“You can’t iterate away bad policy”

— you’ve got to get people and process aligned on projects.

“Every team member should observe 2 hours of user research every 6 weeks”


“At least one session of research should be planned for every two weeks of design work”

— about the idea of a minimum viable number of exposure hours[1] that are necessary to make a difference to a project team.
Also about using quantifiable targets (numbers) to positively affect behaviour, culture and processes: “it’s amazing how things just become a thing”.

“The strategy is delivery. Deliver useful stuff to teams incredibly regularly”

— a nice way to think about selling your value to people and teams by being dependable, visible, findable and just-in-time.

Further reading

  1. UIE: Fast Path to a Great UX – Increased Exposure Hours