E-commerce Link: Conceptual Thinking
I generally like to break the discussion guide down into components so that each piece feels like a separate activity or game, keeping participants engaged and cooperative throughout the session. This is particularly important in concept testing where all questions are repeated for both concepts. (To control for bias, don't forget to alternate which concept is shown first to each participant.)
Background and Rapport
With the tests I ran, I started by asking a series of background questions to help the participant feel more comfortable: What do you do for work? For fun? How much time do you spend on the computer each week? What sites do you visit most regularly? It's important to be friendly and to establish a rapport right from the onset. You'll find your users to be more open and talkative if you're not too stiff or business-like.
As part of this warm-up, I also ask participants to write on an index card a list of the information they'd likely be trying to find—or the tasks they'd be trying to complete—when coming to this type of website. We then set the list to the side for later.
Next, we move forward with a 15-second test where I show the participant a mocked-up homepage design (on screen) before turning off the monitor. Then I ask the participant what he remembers about the page, what stood out and what types of tasks could be accomplished given the page's functionality. This exercise helps confirm whether or not users are seeing and internalizing your page's main messages and top calls to action. Because participants have limited interaction with the design, they are providing you with a glimpse into their first impressions.
After turning the monitor back on, the participant and I talk further about the homepage design—things he particularly likes or dislikes, content that doesn't make sense or seems misplaced, font sizes and readability, and modules that should be added or removed. By asking if anything should be added or removed, you're also asking about the amount of content on the page. If it feels too busy, participants will let you know.