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Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests, Second Edition by Jeffrey Rubin, Dana Chisnell, Jared Spool

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Chapter 4. Skills for Test Moderators

The role of the test moderator or test administrator is the most critical of all the test team members, presuming that you even have the luxury of a test team. In fact, the moderator is the one team member that you absolutely must have in order to conduct the test. The moderator is ultimately responsible for all preparations including test materials, participant arrangements, and coordination of the efforts of other members of the test team.

During the test, the moderator is responsible for all aspects of administration, including greeting the participant, collecting data, assisting and probing, and debriefing the participant. After the test, he or she needs to collate the day's data collection, meet with and debrief other team members, and ensure that the testing is tracking with the test objectives. If the usability test were an athletic contest, the moderator would be the captain of the team. As such, he or she has the potential to make or break the test. An ineffective moderator can seriously negate test results and even waste much of the preliminary preparation work. This chapter discusses several alternatives for acquiring test moderators from inside and outside your organization, as well as the desired characteristics of an effective test moderator. Chapter 9 includes guidelines for moderating test sessions, including information about when and how to intervene, and the advantages and disadvantages of using a "think-aloud" protocol.

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