Schedule Time & Gather Materials
- Time: 3-5 minutes per user; about 2-3 hours total
- Time to Analyze: 4 Hours
- Sheets of lined paper
Carry Out This Method
- The number of participants needed for the test typically ranges from 20-30. This, combined with its quick execution time, makes it a good candidate for a Guerrilla Usability Test. Feel free to recruit friends and family that could be considered part of your target user base.
- Set the ground rules. Tell each participant they have 3 minutes to write their responses to your question, and they will receive compensation for their time. Typically, $5 – or a coupon or gift card of similar value – is a good incentive.
- Ask participants to list as many things as they can about a topic selected for your research, or ask how many different ways they could use a relevant item.
- After each participant has finished, ask if they can think of any other items similar to one of the items listed. This is a prompt to allow the participant to create associations between your topic and topics of personal importance.
- If a participant has listed an unusual item, ask them to clarify. Outlier responses can sometimes yield interesting insights.
- Ask participants which item best describes how they feel about the topic or what is their favorite item on the list.
- After you have gathered feedback from all participants, conduct an Affinity Diagramming session to analyze the data. Present your conclusions and recommendations to stakeholders.
Try These Tips
- Free-listing can be used as an effective precursor to a Card Sort or as a companion to the creation of a Controlled Vocabulary.
- Conducting one Free-listing study early in the design process and then performing another one later with a product’s primary persona can provide a useful contrast for designers and stakeholders.
Explore More Resources
- Usability Body of Knowledge: Free Listing
- Designing the User Experience at Autodesk: Freelisting
- UX Mastery: Design Games — Freelisting
- Boxes and Arrows: Beyond cardsorting: Free-listing methods to explore user categorizations
- nForm: Free Listing