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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 10. Debrief the Participant and Observers

Debriefing refers to exploring and reviewing the participant's actions during the performance portion of a usability test. When first sitting down to organize this book, Jeff was not sure whether to assign debriefing to its own stage of testing or to combine it with the previous stage of conducting the test. After all, one could argue that debriefing is really an extension of the testing process. Participants perform some tasks, and you interview them either in phases or after the entire test.

Because there is much to learn during the debriefing portions of tests, it seemed apparent that debriefing warranted its own separate treatment, or stage of testing. While the performance of the usability test uncovers and exposes problems, it is often the debriefing session that sheds light on why these problems occurred and how to fix them. Though a debriefing does not have to be formal or extensive, it is often not until the debriefing session that one understands motive, rationale, and very subtle points of confusion. If you think of usability testing as a mystery to be solved, in the debriefing session all the pieces come together.

Why Review with Participants and Observers?

Ideally, for every test that you conduct, your goal should be to understand why every error, difficulty, and omission occurred for every participant for every session. Debriefing with participants is your final opportunity to fulfill this goal before you let the participants ...

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