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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 5. Develop the Test Plan

The test plan is the foundation for the entire test. It addresses the how, when, where, who, why, and what of your usability test. Under the sometimes unrelenting time pressure of project deadlines, there could be a tendency to forgo writing a detailed test plan. Perhaps, feeling that you have a good idea of what you would like to test in your head, you decide not to bother writing it down. This informal approach is a mistake, and it invariably will come back to haunt you.

Why Create a Test Plan?

A sound approach is to start writing the test plan as soon as you know you will be testing. Then, as the project proceeds, continue to refine it, get feedback, buy-in, and so forth. Of course, there is a limit to flexibility, so prior to the test you need to set a reasonable deadline after which the test plan may not change. Let that date also serve as the point at which the product can no longer change until after the test. You may find that the test plan is the only concrete milestone at that point in time in the development cycle and, as such, serves an important function.

Once you reach the cutoff date, do all that you can to freeze the designof the product you will be testing. Additional revisions may invalidate thetest design you have chosen, the questions you ask, even the way you collect data. If you are pressured to revise the test after the cutoff date, make sure that everyone understands the risks involved. The test may be invalidated, and the product ...

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