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 Audience Test Run

So you have finished developing your product. Nice going! Don't, however, pat yourselves on the back for a job well done just yet. You're still not quite finished. You're now about to answer the question, Does our product really work?

The audience test-run often strikes fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned production crew. What if after all your hard work, they don't like it? Not to worry! the Studio production structure almost guarantees success. Besides, the audience test- run most often shows what a great job you have done. That doesn't mean, though, that your product is perfect at this point. What seems logical and clear to you, may not seem so to those who are not as close to or familiar with your product as you are.

Here's what you (and the Studio) want to find out in the audience test-run: What "problems" do you need to fix in order to have a product that truly does for its audience what you designed and developed it to do? A problem could be anything from misspelled words and unclear directions to unanticipated audience reactions or even the unexpected dumping of the user right out of the program. It also could be something as basic as the participants hating the whole concept (not likely, but possible).

Here's how you find out what needs to be done:

  1. Recruit test-run participants (2-10) who are similar to your intended audience.
    The important thing here is that the test audience should, as much as possible, be like your "real" audience so you get the most accurate information.

  2. Have the test-run participants use or watch your product.
    It is not necessary to bring the whole group together at once. Depending on your product, you may get better information if only one or two people participate at a time.

  3. Observe the test-run participants as they use/watch your product.
    The important thing here is to try not to interfere. In order to get accurate information, you must not jump in to "help" as soon as you spot an apparent problem. Of course, if participants really get stuck, you do want to work with them so they can continue to test your product.

    1. Make notes.
      Your notes should include information about where any problems occurred, under what circumstances, and how the person attempted to resolve or actually did resolve the problem. You should include any participant reactions, both positive and negative, which you observe. Your notes should include information such as "Screen #10 - both participants clicked on the big picture of the car instead of the first small picture" or "the right arrow button on screen #3 sends user to screen #4 instead of screen #7."

    2. Ask questions.
      Your questions should help clarify why people are doing what they're doing (i.e., When you got to the screen with the one big and several small pictures of cars, why did you click on the big picture first?). Your questions should also help you make changes (i.e., What would you suggest we do to make this screen, page, frame, etc. less confusing?).

  4. Have the test-run participants make notes as they use/watch your product.
    This is a good way for the test-run participants to capture things as they happen. You will likely get confirmation of problems you observed as well as some on-the-spot thinking which you cannot observe very easily. This is also a useful time to collect information if you are unable to directly observe the test-run participants.

  5. Have the test-run participants complete a survey.
    This is a more systematic way to collect the infomation you are after. All test-run participants answer the same questions, and you can quickly see any trends that develop. Like the test-run participant notes, a survey is also a good way to get information if you are unable to observe the participants yourself.

  6. Conduct interviews/focus group after the test-run.
    Individual interviews allow you to obtain more detailed information from each person interviewed. Focus groups also give you detailed information as the participants use each other's comments and thoughts to stimulate and elaborate on their own comments and thoughts.

Direct observation of the test-run participants is probably the best way to find out where any "problems" exist in your product. However, any or all of the other methods will provide you with valuable information on whether your product really does what you intended it to do.

A sample survey format has been provided. Also included are some sample interview or focus group questions.

S tudio 1151 Guidebook by Karen McNally and Alan Levine
Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI)
Maricopa Community Colleges

The Internet Connection at MCLI is Alan Levine --}
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