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I am planning a usability test for a product and one of the product's main features is the capability to share a file with another user (Google Doc's sharing style). I wish to test this feature and as a task, I will be asking the participants what they will do if they were to share a file. I'm considering the 3 options:

  1. At first, my initial idea was to give participants a fake email address (...@example.com) to share the file with. But this doesn't seem realistic so I don't think participants will be immersed with the whole task.

  2. Provide a more realistic email address with an actual domain. But again, if the user doesn't use that domain, it won't be realistic as well. And we have to be aware of spam issues.

  3. Don't provide an email address. Participants will have to either: A) just explain to us what they will do, or B) log in to the device with their google account and fetch a contact from it. But A will affect the accuracy of the task time and not many participants will be willing to go through B.

So I wish to ask for some advice on if anyone has conducted a similar usability test and what's my best approach. The task time is very important for this test I am planning, which is something to consider. Reading this article, it seems Option 2 is the best choice but I'm wondering if there are better options out there. Thanks!

  • Whenever we had people needing to use their personal data (email etc.) during a test, we told them to just add a few numbers or letters to their actual email address. This way it still felt genuine to use the field, but it didn't lead to spam or unwanted services on their behalf (we mostly tested sign-up forms). We skipped any part where they'd have to confirm email and such as a consequence. – Wanda Feb 26 '18 at 11:36
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Option 2 feels like the way to go. Usability testing is about getting users on your product and presenting it to them as if it were complete, so to me that rules out 1 and 2. If you're worried about giving away someone else's email address, just make a new email for this test and promptly forget about it.

Best of luck!

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What are you testing the feature for? What are your success metrics? In this case, you mention measuring the task time, so you need to provide the same baseline for all participants, otherwise, the results will be skewed.

Is there any other part of your test where you can introduce this pre-existing knowledge of another user's email? For example, a task where they add a teammate to the app? Later when they have to share a doc, you can just have them share it with that user, so even if it's a fake email they've entered, they will have to recover it on their minds and it might be a similar cognitive effort and a way to create a similar context for all.

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