Man is reviewing a computer and phone while speaking to a woman who is taking notes

Think-Aloud Testing

Think-Aloud testing, or lab usability testing using the think-aloud protocol, is a common technique for testing an interface with a user. During a lab test, a researcher will directly observe while they try to accomplish a task. As the user completes this task, they are asked to think out loud, describing their expectations and feelings about the experience. Thinking out loud is a request made to users in many Practical UX Methods’ articles. Users’ words are important sources of insight and empathy for designers and are persuasive evidence of usability issues and user preferences when presenting to stakeholders.


Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time for Preparation: 1 Hour
  • Time per Test: 1 Hour per Test
  • Number of Tests: Meaningful results can be found with 6 tests
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Testable prototype or live site
  • Video camera or webcam
  • Screen capture software
  • Test computer or laptop
  • Notebook and pen
  • List of tasks or scenarios

Carry Out This Method

Man and woman are using a laptop and pointing at the screen together
  1. Before testing, stakeholders and the design team should agree which scenarios or tasks need to be tested. These test scenarios should include interactions that are especially important or likely to be frequently used. Also include pages or elements that have potential usability issues.
  2. Set up your screen capture software to record the screen. Software that captures clicks or mouse movement tracks is especially useful. Also set up a video camera so you can view the user’s facial expressions and eye movements.
  3. Recruit between 5 and 10 participants for testing. These should be prospective users rather than randomly selected people.
  4. Begin recording. Get some contextual information about the user that is relevant to their product use, including their level of technical expertise and previous experience with similar products.
  5. Set expectations: Tell participants to be brutally honest about their thoughts – you are not the designer, the user will not hurt your feelings by being honest. Let the user also know that you cannot answer any questions about what will happen when they click a link, or if a navigation decision is “right”.
  6. Present your participant with their first task. Ask them to think out loud whenever they pause to figure something out or when they make an assumption about what to click. Record the user’s thoughts and expectations.
  7. If a participant asks, “Do I click on this?” or “What happens when I go here?”, ask them what their expectations are.
  8. If a participant takes an unexpected path and risks derailing the test, take control and navigate them back to the ideal path, making note of the path they took.
  9. Once the participant has completed the tasks, end the test by asking for their overall impression. Rather than their opinion on the design, ask about ease of use, intuitiveness, and if the participant ever felt overwhelmed.
  10. Collect the results of all tests and note common issues. Present your findings to the product team.

Try These Tips

  • An unmoderated version of this test can be performed remotely through some online services, Remote Evaluation.
  • A test moderator’s job is not to guide the participant, it is only to make sure the participant is describing their thought processes with clarity.

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Shipping & Delivery

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