4 min read

A Fail Safe Checklist for Moderating a Usability Test

Usability testing is an essential user researcher skill, but one that can often be taken for granted. They’re simple and quick to do, but keeping track of the details is important. When you skip over the details, it can be frustrating and end up wasting a lot of time. Therefore having a checklist in place can save you a lot of the grief of getting anything wrong. 

Ensure that your checklist takes you through the ideal planning stages of a usability test, from a few weeks to the day off and also covers what to do post test.
We cover some steps in this fail safe checklist that help you successfully carry out website usability testing.

Planning Stage

Proper planning prior to UX testing can prevent poor performance during. Taking the time to plan before the test in detail can be a huge time-saver and set you up for success. 

2 to 3 weeks prior

1. Define the goals and objectives

Create a research plan or brief to define the goal and objectives for the study. Properly carrying out this step ensures that the goals for the study are clear and that they align with the usability testing as a methodology. Ensure that you spend enough time with the team and decide the research questions and expected outcome together. 

2. Consider the type of test

Based on your goals, decide on the type of usability testing methods best suited for the kind of outcome you want. You will need to choose between a moderated or unmoderated study, whether the test will be remote or in-person. Ensuring that the usability test is the right fit is crucial at this point.

3. Determine the logistics

Figuring out basic logistics is essential in the planning stage. You will need to decide how long the test will be, what kind of technology to use, if it is in person where will it be conducted? Ironing out these details is really important so that everything goes smoothly later. 

4. Decide on who the participants will be

Decide on what kind of participants you want to speak to during the test. Decide on the criteria you will use to select your participants based on the kind of test you want to carry out. Figure out if you need specific information from the participants based on your objective, this will help you narrow down your participants.

5. Create a survey to shortlist your candidates

Build a survey to screen participants that’ll allow you to recruit your specific participants. Once you write the questions for your survey, share it with a trusted group to make sure you don’t miss out on anything.

6. Begin recruiting

Once your survey is ready, start recruiting for participants. Figure out where and how you will recruit these people. Will you recruit them from a platform like Facebook, Linkedin etc.? Then decide if you will use an agency to recruit them for you or will you mail the participants individually. 

Next think about you will incentivise or reward people for participating in your survey. You can offer them something like a gift card, discount or any small token of appreciation. 

Once this is in place, you can start sending out or advertising your recruitment – ensure you include your survey here. Also give people time and date options.

Finally plan for some back up participants in case anyone drops out at the last minute so that all your slots get filled despite any dropouts.

7. Review the prototypes or concepts

To get a general idea of what you will be testing, review your prototypes or concept. This will help you envision the discussion guide and flow of the session.

8. Start the discussion guide

If you have enough information in place, start writing a user testing guide that has an introduction, warm-up, tasks, wrap-up and start thinking about the flow of the session.

One week before

1. Review the prototype

Once everything else is in place, go over your prototype with the designer and the product manager. Having the prototype in place before the tests begin, gives you the space to create a great discussion guide. If the prototype is delayed, consider postponing the test.

2. Write down the tasks

Ensure you write everything down in your discussion guide, including the flow of the study. 

3. Start scheduling participants

Schedule everyone into the calendar. Your calendar invitation should include the date and time of the test, the location or link to the session, contact details of the person in charge and a link to cancel or reschedule so that you are updated.

4. Review and finalise tasks

Collaborate with colleagues and get feedback. Make any necessary changes to the tasks and finish your discussion guide, ensure everyone on your team knows who is doing what. Determine each person’s roles and responsibilities on the day of the test. 

One or two days prior

  • Send confirmation emails
  • Enable access for participants to the prototype
  • Do a dry run
  • Setup, send out, or print out a NDA or consent form
  • Keep incentives ready
  • Double check calendar invites

Day of test

  • Send reminders
  • Sign in to the session early
  • Prep the room
  • Brief the participants
  • Get testing!


Don’t leave any tasks for the last minute. Taking the time to go through these tasks, will lessen any pressure and make the whole process seamless.

Published by Venky Hariharan

Lead UX Designer


Venky Hariharan Lead UX Designer