What makes the perfect tester?

August 14, 2014


This week we were tasked with finding keen puzzlers; those who had a penchant for Polygon, a craving for Codeword and a fondness for Fukoshiki. It got me thinking about the range of profiles we have been asked to recruit for, the trials and tribulations of the recruitment process and how you can never be sure just who is going to turn up on the day. It also begs the questions… is there such a thing as a perfect tester?

At Web Usability, we pride ourselves on our recruitment. It is all handled in house and so we can control, to the best of our ability, the comings, goings and calibre of testers. This has allowed us to ensure that we have a no show rate of less than 1%, while many other recruitment agencies hover around the 10% mark.

So how to be a perfect tester…

Be a talker:

But not too much. We don’t want your X-Factor sob story or an update on your dog’s latest round of acupuncture. What we do want are testers who can coherently express what they are thinking during a session. Even more exciting are those testers who can concisely finish a sentence, providing us with perfect quotes we can use to highlight a particular issue.

Be Open:

During our most recent piece of research, one particularly half empty ‘puzzler’ effectively refused to interact with the site put in front of them because they were not familiar with the content. Often we will introduce testers to something they may not be familiar with, particularly if we are testing wireframes, which may not be set up to look as you would expect a website to. If a respondent is closed to new ideas, not only can it project a negative cloud over the testing session and onto the clients, but also reduce the amount of useful feedback.

Don’t Lie:

While at university, I spent time working front of house at a leading research studios in Central London. One evening, a particularly flamboyant lady rocked up twice to participate in two entirely different research sessions, each time under a different pseudonym. The second time she asked where she might find the facilities, it was a real struggle to refrain from noting that they hadn’t moved from earlier. But I digress. The point of this anecdote is that while we can do our best to stick to a client’s tester profile during recruitment, if our questions are not answered honestly by potential testers, there is very little we can do. It will only come back to bite the respondent in the derriere when the testing actually begins and it quickly become apparent that their knowledge/ interests do not match up with what they had told us in the first place.

Fit the Profile:

Over the years, we have been asked to recruit a diverse range of testers from millionaires to Olympic stadium managers, single mothers on benefits, rabbit owners, school kids, OAPs and plumbers to name just a few. We want people who are enthusiastic about the areas we are recruiting for, whether they be wine connoisseurs or avid online news readers, not just mildly interested. These buffs know what they are looking for when exploring the test sites and can provide us with the greatest insights into what are the user needs.

But what does makes a perfect tester? I’d say there is really no such thing. Because of the variety of our projects there is no ‘one size fits all’ template. The above qualities certainly help the testing process, but do not define a perfect tester. What does is our bespoke recruitment process.

If you would like to be a tester or know more about our recruitment process, please visit the Web Usability website.