User Research Basics: Creating a Test and Script / by Gavin Lau

While most people agree that usability testing can be incredibly helpful for a product, it can often feel out-of-reach if you’re unfamiliar with the process.

User Research Basics meant for those in product development (from developers to executives) who are new to testing and want to conduct basic user testing in a short time frame.

Articles in this series will discuss the following:
1. Creating a Plan & Scoping and Planning Sessions
2. Creating a Test and Script
3. Recruiting Users
4. Moderating Sessions and Recording Results
5. Analyzing Results


Creating a Test and Script

Once you have a created the scope and plan for your test, you need to start understanding any wanted outcomes and articulate them in ways others can easily understand.

I start by creating high-level user goals and mapping specific user tasks. User goals are intended to represent user wants and needs. From the user goals, I then create the tasks that will form the basis of the script.

If we properly scoped and planned our test, we would have the following information:

  1. Area of focus
  2. Problem statement(s)
  3. Hypothesis
  4. Metrics; and
  5. Target users

User Goals:

These goals are big, overarching goals that a user has when using a product. Goals are often broad and don’t include specific, step-by-step tasks. From a user point of view, it doesn’t necessarily matter how I accomplish the goal, as long as the goal gets completed.

For example, a user goal for Facebook might be to share photos from their birthday with friends.


Now that we have our goals, I would consult my prototype and figure out the ideal path and detail the steps needed to complete the user goal. Essentially, the tasks are the step-by-step directions of accomplishing the goal. For the above Facebook example, some tasks might be:

  1. Login
  2. Navigate to my page
  3. Click on photos
  4. Click the “add photos” button

It’s important to note every possible way to accomplish the goal. Facebook offers multiple ways to upload photos. So the list of tasks might include an alternate set of possibilities that a user could take, such as

  1. Login
  2. Click the “add photos/video” button at the top of the news feed.


Once you have your tasks and task order, it’s time to create the script. Every test you conduct will need an introduction and some ground rules. Here’s an example script introduction:

Hi _____, thank you again for taking the time to participate in this study. Before we begin, I’m going to give you a brief overview of the test and how it will work.
This session is pretty straightforward — I’ll be giving you a broad task to complete and then asking questions as we go along. Before I tell you the task, I’ll be giving you a little bit of context behind it, such as why you might be doing it and what you hope to achieve.
It’s really important to know that we are only testing the site, not you. You can’t do or say anything wrong here. Please feel free to let me know at any time if there’s something you like, dislike, if you’re confused, etc. I promise you won’t hurt my feelings.
Also, I’d like you to “think aloud” as much as possible. By that, I mean that I’d like you to speak your thoughts as often as you can. For example, you may be looking at a page, suddenly see something you didn’t see before and want to click on it. In that case, saying something like “this caught my eye so I’m going to see what it is” would be very useful.
If at any point you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Do you have any questions so far?
Ok, Let’s get started.

Now, you’ll want to add any story or background information for the user to set the scene for the goal, then add each task. You may also want to add questions or prompts in between each task as reminders of things that may happen.

When you’ve added all your prompts and additional information, add a “debrief” section that provides the moderator questions intended to gauge initial feedback.

And that’s the basic structure! This example template pulls together the elements discussed above and also provides additional framing for the moderator.