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Notable Notes: Collecting great notes at usability test sessions

Most texts on usability testing define the role of note taker. Unfortunately, the role is not always properly appreciated and, worse, is often considered expendable. The lack of appreciation often stems from the perception that this is a junior or even administrative task. Recruiting a note taker can be challenging, either because team members are not allocated time to this role or because they view this as unrelated to their main activities. This goes so far as, when team members do observe sessions, many do not take any notes to share what they saw, even when encouraged to do so. At its best, though, note taking provides an essential contribution to a usability test that deserve appreciating and emphasis.

Note on presentation: Some new technology options for capturing information have come onto the scene since I presented this in 2010. Some of my own thinking has expanded about the role of a session logger (does so much more than just taking notes). However, the fundamentals of what make people good at this task and of what good notes look like have not really changed. As I've heard questions about this role in various places lately, I thought I'd upload this presentation with only minor updates for better readability on SlideShare and adjustments for updated file format.

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Notable Notes: Collecting great notes at usability test sessions

  1. 1. Notable notes: Collecting great notes at usability test sessions Karen L. Bachmann UPA 2010, Munich, Germany
  2. 2. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 2 Can’t anyone take notes?
  3. 3. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 3 The misunderstood note taker: Administrative work
  4. 4. © 2010 K. Bachmann Poof! 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 4 The misunderstood note taker: Optional role
  5. 5. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 5 The misunderstood note taker: No one allocated time
  6. 6. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 6 The best note taker: An engaged team member assigned the role
  7. 7. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 7 Qualities of a good note taker: Active contribution
  8. 8. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 8 Qualities of a good note taker: Keen observation skills
  9. 9. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 9 Qualities of a good note taker: Critical thinking
  10. 10. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 10 Aren’t notes just notes? • Based on knowledge of project • Focused on the most salient observations related to study goals • Captures not just the words said, but also expressions, reactions, emotions, and non-verbal communication
  11. 11. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 11 1 ounce of good notes = 1 pound of analysis
  12. 12. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 12 Qualities of great session notes • Capture the right observations • … without interpretation • Catch observations that recordings may miss • Focus on the most meaningful findings
  13. 13. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 13 Working with your note taker • Recruit a partner who is a great note taker. • Convey that the note taker is an active contributor. • Prepare for the test together. • Explain the goals of the test.
  14. 14. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 14 Working with your note taker • Provide a note-taking form • Agree upon conventions for information beyond direct observations. Tried Copy button Tried Edit menu || S √ KB: Has figured out Image menu VF M| Tried Edit menu [Recognition w Img]
  15. 15. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 15 Typed or handwritten? Typed • Easier to read • Searchable • Faster transmission to team • More verbal information (type faster than write) Handwritten • Quieter and less intrusive if in the same room as participant • Richer information (drawings and non-text notations) • More portable • May support alternative analysis
  16. 16. © 2010 K. Bachmann 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann - 16 Notable notes help create more successful usability testing
  17. 17. 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann Questions? • Karen.Bachmann@gmail.com Thanks • Dana Chisnell for feedback on the initial idea leading to this presentation • J. Rubin, D. Chisnell. Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests, 2nd Edition.
  18. 18. 26 Wed 2010 Notable Notes: Bachmann Image Credits • Notebook: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/252413 • Colleagues: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/897342 • Team: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1030717 • Real person as notetaker: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/658889 • Clock: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1003409 • Hard at work: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/768095 • Team mates: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1193411 • Hawk: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1227598 (by Sias van Schalkwyk) • Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_Knot.jpg • Notes: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/494879 • Coin: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/835971 • Paper pads and pencils: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1269186 (by Zsuzsanna Kilian) • Keyboard and glasses: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1204276 (by Zsuzsanna Kilian) • Superheroes (licensed): http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-10322200-super- team.php

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