Documenting usability testing with the TOFIRE template

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Dear UXer,

Often times new researchers get confused about the right way to document and analyze their usability testing findings. They experiment with various methods, often losing time and fidelity in the process. Based on my experience, I have created a template that I find pretty effective. I call it the TOFIRE template. The letters TOFIRE are the first letters of each column of this template.

How to create and use

Fire up any of your favorite spreadsheet – Excel, Numbers, Calc and create the following columns:

  • Task/Topics – List the tasks for the testing or topics of discussion/feedback under this column.
  • Observations/Opinions – List the observations or participants’ opinions(not the interviewer’s) for each task under this column. Each task may have multiple observations, with each observation having its own row.
  • Frequency – Record the number of participants for whom this particular observation was found. it is possible that you find more than one participant getting stuck at a point, reacting in a certain way or moving forward in a certain manner.
  • Insights – Write down the insights you gained from these observations. One observation may have multiple insights or each insight may be formed from a group of observations.
  • Recommendations – Recommendations based on insights go here. Again, the one-to-many and many-to-one principle applies here.
  • Expected Impact – Write down how you expect this recommendation to help, how much of an impact you expect to have (high/medium/low) by implementing this recommendation. it may not always be possible to quantify the impact, but talking about how it will help is a must.

Write down your observations and your insights & recommendations if you think of any, after every session and keep adding, modifying after every session. This is to make sure you don’t forget any flashes of insights and recommendations you have while conducting the sessions. You may find yourself changing your insights, recommendations with new observations, which is normal.

Once all the sessions are complete, go over each recording to make sure you got them all right and to add or modify any of the columns based on new information. Once you have done this, you will find it easy to put all this together in a nice report and impress your stakeholders with your speed and depth.

I do hope you find this really useful.

Yours Sincerely,
Fellow UXer

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