Whichever product you’re developing, key for its success is to keep users engaged. People stay interested in products which satisfy their needs and don’t cause them additional problems (by being too complicated to use, e.g.). Way to find out whether your product provides value to your targeted users is by getting insights in overall user-product interactions. This practically means to undergo thorough and constant usability testing throughout the whole product’s life cycle.

Now, whether you conduct usability testing on paper sketches, clickable images, high-fidelity prototypes or fully working systems, effective tasks set upon users are essential for test success. Carefully assembled tasks reveal product’s strengths or drawbacks and make communication with users fruitful and meaningful.

Like in other situations in which you’re looking for some answers, odds are that you’ll be more successful if you accompany some sort of explanation with your request. Talking about the tasks, you’ll be far better in attaining feedback if you explain testers what you expect from them. Namely, every task you create should be set in a wider context, which is to be acquired by making each task a part of certain scenario.

Common for all impactful scenarios is that they are making tasks more catchy. Here are a few things to have in mind while creating task scenarios that promise insightful results:

Realistic tasks provide relevant information

Usability testing makes sense only if it delivers accurate information. And the accuracy is attained only if users are engaged in tasks which resembles their real engagement with a product. So, tasks which will uncover representative user behavior are the ones that mimic problems users are most likely to encounter. Way to set these kind of tasks is to think about how users actually use your product by themselves, in real life setting. Also, before setting the tasks it is good to take in consideration what are your users intentions. The most important things users want to accomplish while interacting with your product are the ones your tasks should be focused on. More user’s goals you define, better you’ll adjust the tasks for gaining better outcomes.

Requests are supposed to encourage action

Your task should attract attention and provoke reaction. Language is there to make connection, so make it understandable and easy to follow – colloquial, academic or scientific language is not really welcomed and can trigger confrontations. If you want to avoid this, while setting tasks just imagine to converse with your representative user. Actions you want to be taken can be perfectly well described by everyday language. Also, be careful of how ‘pushy’ your tasks are. Chances are that by forcing users to interact with a specific product feature rather than following ways they usually use the interface, you’re more likely to test their patience than their real interaction with a product. Good pre-test is to ask your friends or colleagues to go through tasks. If they’re not engaged, your job with creating tasks is not finished.

Too many details reveal the answers

In order to get proper feedback, your tasks have to be clear and simple. Practically, this means that everything which is not absolutely necessary should be cut off. Too many details either leads to loosing the focus or giving away the answers. Present testers with distinct and focused requests and escape confusions. While doing that, be careful not to give them to much clues, since it makes all the effort pointless. Making tasks straightforward doesn’t have to uncover the answer. One more thing to keep away from is asking too broad questions. User’s first impression or general opinion on your app interface e.g. might be interesting to hear, but won’t reveal much on your user behaviour.

Guidelines for creative usability test tasks are there to help your product improvement. Acting wisely while designing these tasks saves your time by gathering real and trustworthy information from a ‘first take’. Your next step: take a creative boost and start writing awesome usability testing tasks.