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Critical Incident Technique

The Critical Incident Technique is a Guerrilla testing method for investigating unexpected events in your product’s functioning. Positive and negative events will be examined separately for commonalities. Analysis can expose pain points, bugs, as well as User Scenarios that reveal unexamined useful functionality that delights users. Product negatives can be prioritized for optimization; product positives can be applied to other areas of the product.

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Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time Needed for Testing: 1 – 2 Days
  • Number of Participants: 50 – 100
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Spreadsheet
  • Live product
  • Pen and paper
  • Compensation for participants (for example, low-value gift cards, $5 bills, etc.)

Carry Out This Method

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  1. Recruit 50-100 participants in a public setting where people are likely to have experience with the product. Offer people a small compensation, like a gift card to pay for their coffee or a $5 bill. (If the product usage does not lend itself to Guerrilla Usability Testing, participants will need to be recruited from the known user base — members of the loyalty program, for example.)
  2. Ask users to describe a time when the product’s behavior did not match their expectations. Let your users know that either a positive or a negative surprise is helpful information.
  3. Record the task participants were performing, the critical event, and whether they were able to complete the task.
  4. Ask participants to rate the impact of the event. (Consider 1-5, Very Good, Good, Neutral, Bad, Very Bad)
  5. Analyze the spreadsheet for commonalities and prioritize based on several criteria: ease of change, impact on usability, impact on conversion. (This will require the creation of a presentation document with visuals.)
  6. Report findings to stakeholders for a decision.

Try These Tips

  • Consider performing this method with other usability methods.
  • Don’t accept critical event stories at face value. The root cause of the pain points may require additional research.

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