Avoiding bias in usability testing

Duncan Stephen
Wednesday 14 January 2015

Collaborative user testing: less bias, better research

This great article outlines some of the dangers of conducting usability testing on your own product. When we are too close to our own work, it can be difficult to fairly evaluate it. Biases creep in even when you take care to avoid it.

As people fully immersed in the project, we are susceptible to many cognitive biases that can affect outcomes at any stage of research—from planning to analysis. Confirmation bias among inexperienced evaluators is a common one. This leads us to phrase questions in a way that is more likely to confirm our own beliefs, or subconsciously prioritize certain responses and ignore others. I’ve done it myself, and seen it in my colleagues, too. For example, I once had a colleague who was particularly keen on introducing search functionality. Despite the fact that only one respondent commented on the lack of search, they finished the testing process genuinely convinced that “most people” had been looking for search.

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