Today I reviewed some usability tests I recently commissioned through usertesting.com. Very pleased with the results too.
I asked 5 US humanities students to perform a couple of quick tasks on a school website, then comment on a few things relating to content and layout.
I got a set of 15 minute videos of students performing tasks and, on the whole, talking quite eloquently throughout.
As is always the case with user testing, I got some great participants and some not-so-good. But this would have happened if I'd grabbed students at an open day and tested with them myself. Two great, two good-to-ok, and one a bit off-the-wall that I'm going to try and get a refund on.
[FOLLOW UP: I got my refund in the form of a test credit a couple of days later. No problem, no quibbles.]
So Steve Krug's recommendation held good. I'd definitely recommend usertesting.com and already have another set of tests to review - this time with UK students. No doubt I'll use the service again.
I guess the trick is to establish the right scenario, set the right tasks and you'll learn something worthwhile. I can do this quite competently because I've made my fair share of mistakes over the past 9 years and got to see the results of my flawed tasks first hand.
The one benefit of running tests yourself I suppose - and particularly when you're a beginner - is that you can adjust questions on the hoof when you screw up. And you can pose impromptu questions or direct things when you're not getting what you want. With usertesting.com you just set it up and let it loose. Then you get what you're given...
usertesting.com - remote usability testing, great value, minimal hassle
Follow up related post: Remote usability testing advice (August 2010)