When I run usability tests, I run it with a facilitator and a note taker in the same room as the participant. In an observation room, I sit members of our project team and the client team.
When I am the facilitator, I concentrate solely on watching what the participant is doing on screen, with their hands, and any other gesturing that will give me insight in to how they are feeling. This allows me to ask objective questions and learn insights. As the facilitator I do not record any notes. However, I use Silverback which allows me to record the facial expressions of the participant and record the screen. It also allows me, through the use of an Apple Remote, to mark points of interest along the timeline of the video capture. This is very useful for skipping to points of significance.
The Note Taker
Have a colleague come in to the session with you armed with a table which has all of the questions that you are going to ask. For each question, the table should capture the overall success rate:
You also want to capture types of issues and the severity of those issues:
Another column will capture any notes, but this is secondary to capturing the overall success and issues along with severity.
The observers should be active observers. I get each of the observers to write down issues that they have seen the participant coming up against on post-it notes. One issue per note. I also encourage the observers to note these down after they have observed the test. This relies on recall, but this way you capture the issues that are really hot for the observer. This also encourages the observer to actively observe the test, rather than have their head down and taking notes.
There are normally a number of people observing, so you will get some crossover in error capturing, but you will also get some niche captures too. If something has been captured multiple times, it is an obvious issue.
At the end of all the usability tests, you can use the KJ Method to group and prioritise all of the errors that have been captured. It is a great way to get the client team involved and to wrap up the day.
This is how you capture notes during a usability test. The facilitator facilitates, the note taker has a strategy before going in to the test environment, and you get the observers (including the client team) to capture usability issues, group them and prioritise.