I'm helping one of our designers to test a simple task on one single page. When I ask him what's your goal for this testing, he said it is to see whether users can find the item or not.

It sounds too generic to me, but since the testing task and prototype are really simple and preliminary, I feel it's hard to ask follow up questions to make the goal more elaborated.

Has anyone got any suggestions?

  • "Finding an item" is much more of a task than a goal (which may be "buy a present for my sister's birthday"). What do you mean by "too generic"? What would you consider "specific"? In my experience, finding an item on a site or on a page is a well reasonable task to bring to usability testing. But it all depends on the context - what item is being searched for and how busy the page is. Could you be more specific about the item/page?
    – Izhaki
    Jan 9, 2014 at 23:28

4 Answers 4


Keeping a task 'generic' and very basic can deliver very insightful results. Things you didn't consider or things you weren't even looking for.

It is not advisable to steer your test subject towards their end goal. Give them the first direction and observe their choices from that point. Going left might be the best and fastest course to choose, but letting them go right might turn up issues you could not foresee.



The usability test should start with a real world user intent.

It's not about whether a user can find a thing, it's more about whether she found the thing she was looking for and why. Consider the reason users would want to find a specific item, what is their real world intent; then walk that process.

  • 1
    Finding an item on a page could well be a real world user intent. Such a task is common in usability testing, same as "Find the price for shipping an item of dimensions X and weight Y within 48 hours to Paris". The user's reason and real world intent are key in UX, but during the research phase; these should inform the requirements and design, which is then tested.
    – Izhaki
    Jan 9, 2014 at 23:24
  • 1
    "Find the price for shipping an item of dimensions X and weight Y within 48 hours to Paris" is not as generic as "find item on page" Jan 9, 2014 at 23:35
  • Agree, but as the OP wrote "the item", I assume the actual test involves a very specific item. As I said in the other comment, it is hard to answer without more details - would be nice to get the actual task description.
    – Izhaki
    Jan 9, 2014 at 23:54
  • 3
    In this example, the real-world user intent is "my friend left her laptop here when she visited me, she needs to get it back by Friday", not "find the price for shipping an item". If you tell the user to do that, they will look for words like "price" and "ship" when those might not be their natural vocabulary for what they really want to do. The question to ask of the designer is why the user is looking for this information. Why do they care if they find it? What will they do if they don't find it?
    – nadyne
    Jan 10, 2014 at 2:09

Yes also for me it's to generic. I suggest you to define a more pragmatic goal related to "find an item". From my point of view "find" means just: "tell me if you can see this item on the page", it's better if the goal is a pragmatic/task goal for e.g. if we want ask to find a customer care number on the page we can try to ask: You need to contact the customer care how do you do starting from here? If the number is on the top of the page in the header for e.g. the user probably will see it but probably also not, he can start looking in the help desk area? in contact? yes probably ... try to track number od clicks and time if make sense and ask to user why.


In my opinion, there are two goals we need to know before the testing. One is the users' goal, which will help us know what scenarios/tasks we should present in the testing. Another one is the testing goal, why we test today.

So I think my question is more like how can we set up our testing goal for a simple task. Designers who has no usability testing training usually think this testing will help them to learn whether their design is easy to use, but they don’t know how to define easy to use. I find it is difficult to help define the easy to use in a simple task, because people tend to think the UI is so intuitive that no one will fail. Maybe my question should be how can I help designers to understand that usability testing works for even a very simple task.


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