I've conducted user tests several times now and a problem that sometimes shows up is that the user feels incompetent when going through the UI, despite being told upfront that the UI is being tested, not them, and when berating themselves for being slow or dumb out loud, being told that this is exactly what we're looking for and what's going to help fix bugs in the UI.

Do you have any tips from experience to make the user feel reassured that they're doing fine?

3 Answers 3


I think this is sometimes due to them not wanting to offend - they'd rather blame themselves. The first thing I'd do (apart from explaining that we're testing the product and not them) is try to make it clear that I'm not the designer or part of the team that built it. That's not necessarily true but it's important that they believe it. I don't want them to feel like I'm judging them, or feeling insulted by their comments, I just wan't their honest feedback.



Your question is particularly interesting and relevant for many users in the UI/UX community. When we bear in mind user testing, it's important to bear in mind a couple of aspects that are within sense, quintessencial, so that users don't feel their ego (in a good sense of course, down - perharps the word self-confidence is more sort of indicated to describe this status). here are a few tips:

  • be nice and gentle, and thakful for their whole contribution to boost their self-confidence;
  • use language cues in a quiet systematic way, to address the prodeceasing issue;
  • try to do all things to prevent and mediate conflit during the entire process;
  • always be clear, straight point and pretty direct;
  • keep things as simple as possible


  • small interactive multiple answer Q&A may be a good way to support their testing
  • this way they only have to explore a single feature of the app, and then coming back to it to provide feedback



It's a little bit acquiescence bias, but that's natural. Depending on the culture, participants usually seem to feel some pressure to be agreeable - no matter how many times you tell them there are "no wrong answers" or "this is not a test of you."

One method I use to try to take some of that pressure away is to break the ice and have a conversation with participants to hear about their background before the task testing gets under way. If you've done a little homework (I recommend it, since it helps people feel valued) you can ask them about their job or something you know they're very interested or involved in or experienced with. I find that people love sharing their expertise and knowledge.

And let interest be your guide, too. People pick up on scripted questions and they feel put-off by questions that sound rehearsed or read. If you ask them about things you're genuinely interested in, you don't have to worry about whether or not you come off as sincere.

The benefit in this context is that you're getting them into a more confident, natural head space and feeling more like themselves. I find this helps participants loosen up and not take the session so literally that they have performance anxiety.

(I'm sure there a word for this technique, priming or something.)

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